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Parts of this analysis of the Triple Gem were originally used to
teach new monks here at the temple and have been printed twice in book
form. Now that a group of people who feel that the book would be
beneficial to Buddhists at large have pooled their resources and asked
permission to print it a third time, I have decided to expand it into a
handbook for all Buddhist adherents — i.e., for all who have declared
the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha to be their refuge. Once we have made
such a declaration, we are duty-bound to learn exactly what the Buddha,
Dhamma, and Sangha are. Otherwise, we will follow our religion blindly,
without realizing its aims or the benefits — called ‘puñña,’ or merit —
that come from its practice, inasmuch as Buddhism is a religion of
Furthermore, we as Thai people are known throughout the world as
Buddhists, but my feeling is that there are very few of us who know the
standards of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. Although many of us are
‘Buddhist,’ we are Buddhist mostly through custom, not through informed
Altogether, there are two ways of adhering to the religion:
rationally and irrationally. To adhere to the religion irrationally
means to adhere to it blindly, following one’s teachers or companions,
holding to whatever they say is good without showing any interest as to
whether it really is good or not. This is like a person of no
discernment who uses whatever paper money comes his way: If it turns out
to be counterfeit, he’ll be punished and fined in a variety of ways.
This is what it means to adhere to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha
To adhere to the religion rationally means not to follow one’s own
prejudices or those of one’s teachers or companions, but to follow the
principles of the texts; holding to the Dhamma-Vinaya as one’s standard,
like a legal document affixed with the government seal, carrying the
force of law throughout the land, making exceptions for no one. Whoever
then transgresses the law can’t be regarded as a good citizen. So it is
with the religion: If we want to know if a practice is good or bad,
right or wrong, worthy of respect or not, we should check it against the
standards established by the Buddha, which are eight in number: Any
behavior that —
1. leads to passion,
2. leads to the compounding of suffering,
3. leads to the accumulation of defilement,
4. leads to over-weaning ambition,
5. leads to discontent with what one has — i.e., having this, one wants that (greed that goes beyond moderation),
6. leads to socializing (of the wrong sort),
7. leads to laziness,
8. leads one to be burdensome to others:
None of these eight forms of behavior qualify as the doctrine or
discipline of Buddhism. Once we know that these forms of behavior are
not what the Buddha intended, we should abandon them completely.
Thus, all of us who respect the Buddha’s teachings should — instead
of working at cross-purposes — join our hearts to cleanse and correct
the practice of the religion. Monks, novices, lay men, and lay women
should make a point of helping one another in the area of reform.
Whatever is already good, we should maintain with respect. Whatever
isn’t, we should exert pressure to improve. We’ll then meet with what’s
truly good, like rice: If you cook good, clean, husked white rice,
you’ll eat with pleasure. If you cook unhusked rice, or a potful of
husks, they’ll stick in your own throat. If we let any bad factions go
uncorrected, they will burden the hearts of their supporters, who will
become like people who cook rice husks to eat. Are we going to let one
another be so stupid as to eat rice husks?
By and large, though, most lay people don’t see this as their duty.
As for the monks and novices, they throw the responsibility on the lay
people, and so we do nothing but keep throwing it back and forth like
this. When things have a bearing on all of us, we should by all means
unite our hearts and accept joint responsibility. Only things that have
no bearing on us should we leave to others. Unless we act in this way,
what is good — the religion — will fall from our grasp. And when the
religion falls from our grasp, lay men (upasaka) will become obstacles (upasak), i.e., they’ll keep creating obstacles in the way of finding merit. Lay women (upasika) will become the color of crows (sika), i.e., dark and evil in their behavior. Novices will become sham novices, careless, spattered, and filthy; and monks (phra) will become goats (phae),
missing out on the flavor of the Dhamma, like the nanny goat who has to
go hungry because her milk has been taken and drunk by people more
intelligent than she. In India, for instance, there are hardly any monks
left to make merit with.
Monks are the important faction, because they are the front-line
troops or standard-bearers in the fight with the enemy — evil.
Ordinarily, soldiers have to adhere to the code of their army and to be
sincere in performing their duties. As for the duties enjoined by the
religion, they are two:
1 Gantha-dhura: studying the scriptures. Once we know the
scriptures, though, we can’t stop there. We have to put them into
practice, because the level of study is simply knowledge on the level of
plans and blueprints. If we don’t follow the blueprints, we won’t
receive the benefits to be gained from our knowledge. And when we don’t
gain the benefits, we’re apt to discard the texts, like a doctor who
knows the formula for a medicine but doesn’t use it to cure any
patients. The medicine won’t show any benefits, and this will cause him
to go looking for a living in other ways, discarding any interest to
pursue that formula further. Thus, putting the scriptures into practice
is one way of preserving them, for once we have put them into practice
and seen the results arising within us — i.e., our own bad qualities
begin to wane — we will appreciate the value of the scriptures and try
to keep them intact. This is like a doctor who is able to use a medicine
to cure a fever and so will preserve the formula because of its use in
making a living. Thus, the Lord Buddha set out a further duty, in the
area of practice, for those who are ordained:
2 Vipassana-dhura: the practice of tranquillity and
insight meditation. These two practices are our primary duties as monks
and novices. If we don’t devote ourselves to these two lines of
practice, we’ll become a fifth column within the religion, enemies of
the good standards of the Dhamma and Vinaya. Monks will become political
monks, war-making monks, loudspeaker monks — loudspeaker monks are
those who can teach others but can’t teach themselves. They can speak
Dhamma, but their hearts have no Dhamma, and so they become the enemies
of those who practice the Dhamma and Vinaya rightly and well.
Thus I ask all Buddhists not to turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to
these problems. If we hold that it’s none of our business, the
consequences could well flare up and spread to burn us. For this reason,
I ask that we all help one another to look after the religion.
Actually, all human beings born need a set of customs and traditions —
called religion — to which they give special respect. Otherwise, we
will have no principles of good and evil or of moral virtue. Whatever
religion this may be is up to the individual adherents. I ask only that
they respect their religion sincerely and rightly, for the sake of true
If we were to use only worldly knowledge to keep order, it would work
only in public places. In private or secret places, order wouldn’t
last. But as for religion, once people have studied so that they really
know good and evil, they wouldn’t dare do evil, either in public or in
private. Religion is thus one of the important mainstays of the world.
If we human beings had no moral virtue imbedded in our hearts, even the
greatest power on earth would be able to keep us in line only
temporarily, and even then it wouldn’t be able to influence our minds
the way the moral virtue that comes from religion can. For this reason,
the practice of moral virtue is one way of helping the religion and the
Now, I’m not claiming to be a heavenly being or anyone special. I’m
simply a person who wishes the religion well. So if anything in this
book is defective — in terms of the expression or the Pali — I hope that
knowledgeable people will forgive me, for it’s not the case that I’m
expert in a wide range of matters.
Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
Wat Paa Khlawng Kung
(The Shrimp Canal Forest Monastery)
Ordinarily, for the world to experience happiness and harmony, there
has to be a teaching or tradition generally respected as good. This
being the case, Bodhisattvas arise — people who develop goodness on the
grand scale for the sake of attaining right self-awakening. Once they
have reached this goal, they are termed ‘Buddhas,’ Awakened Ones. For
Bodhisattvas to succeed in this direction, they have to devote
themselves to perfecting ten virtues —
1 Dana-parami: charity.
2 Sila-parami: morality.
3 Nekkhamma-parami: renunciation of sensuality (and of the household life).
4 Pañña-parami: the search for discernment.
5 Viriya-parami: persistence.
6 Khanti-parami: endurance, patience.
7 Sacca-parami: truthfulness.
8 Adhitthana-parami: determination.
9 Metta-parami: benevolence.
10 Upekkha-parami: equanimity (in proper cases, i.e., in areas that are beyond one’s control).
These ten perfections are the factors that enable a Bodhisattva to
succeed in becoming an arahant, a Pure One. Once he attains this state,
three qualities — called ‘actualized virtues’ — arise in his heart:
Pañña-guna: sharp discernment.
Karunadhiguna: compassion for living beings throughout the world.
These qualities enable the Buddha to teach the Dhamma in a beneficial
way. His conduct in this area is of three sorts: Having achieved his
own purposes (attattha-cariya), he acts for the benefit of living beings throughout the world (lokattha-cariya) and teaches the Dhamma to his own circle of relatives (ñatattha-cariya).
There are three aspects to the Buddha:
1) The physical aspect — the body (elements, aggregates (khandha), and sense media), which is the external aspect of the Buddha, called ‘Buddha-nimitta,’ or the symbol of the Buddha. (This is like the bark of a tree.)
2) The good practices he followed — such as virtue,
concentration, and discernment, which are aspects of his activity. These
are called ‘dhamma-nimitta‘ of the Buddha, symbols of his inner quality. (These are the sapwood.)
3) Vimutti — release from ignorance, craving, attachment, and kamma; attaining nibbana, the supreme quality, a quality that does not die (amata-dhamma). (This is the heartwood, or essence of the Buddha.)
A person of little intelligence will use bark to build himself a
home; a person of medium intelligence will use sapwood; while a person
of sharp intelligence will build his home of heartwood. So it is with
those of us who take refuge in the Buddha. But in any case we’re better
off than people without a home. Like rats or lizards who have to live in
the hollows of trees and are in for trouble if people set the trees on
fire: If we place our trust in our life, our bodies, or our worldly
possessions, we’ll have no refuge when the fires of death reach us. Or
as when a boat sinks in the middle of the ocean: A person without a
life-vest is in serious danger. For this reason, we should educate
ourselves so as to find a refuge that will benefit us both in this life
and in lives to come.
Another comparison: The sages of the past used the term ‘Buddha-ratana,’
comparing the Buddha to a jewel. Now, there are three sorts of jewels:
artificial gems; gemstones, such as rubies or sapphires; and diamonds,
which are held to be the highest. The aspects of the Buddha might be
compared to these three sorts of jewels. To place confidence in the
external aspect — the body of the Buddha or images made to represent him
— is like dressing up with artificial gems. To show respect for the
practices followed by the Buddha by giving rise to them within ourselves
is like dressing up with rubies and sapphires. To reach the quality of
deathlessness is like dressing in diamonds from head to toe.
But no matter what sort of jewels we use to dress up in, we’re better
off than savages who go around hanging bones from their necks, who look
unkempt and — what’s more — are bound to be haunted by the bones they
wear. The bones, here, stand for the body, i.e., our attachment to the
body as really being ours. Actually, our body comes for the most part
from the bodies of other animals — the food we’ve eaten — so how can we
seriously take it to be our own? Whoever insists on regarding the body
as his or her own is like a savage or a swindler — and, as a swindler,
is bound to receive punishment in proportion to the crime. Thus, we
should regard the body as money borrowed for the span of a lifetime, to
be used as capital. And we should search for profits so as to release
ourselves from our debts, by searching for another, better form of
goodness: the qualities of the Buddha that he left as teachings for all of his followers. These qualities, briefly put, are —
1 Sati: the continual mindfulness (wakefulness) found in the factors of jhana.
2 Pañña: the intuitive discernment that comes from developing mental concentration.
3 Vimutti: release from defilement
These are qualities that all Buddhists should develop within
themselves so as to gain Awakening, following the example of the Buddha,
becoming Savaka Buddhas (Disciple Buddhas), an opportunity open —
without exception and with no restrictions of time or place — to all who
follow his teachings.
Buddhists who revere the Buddha in the full sense of the word should
have two sorts of symbols with them, to serve as reminders of their
1 Buddha-nimitta: representatives of the Buddha, such as
Buddha images or stupas in which relics of the Buddha are placed. This
sort of reminder is like a nation’s flag.
2 Buddha-guna: the qualities that form the inner symbol
of the Buddha, i.e., the proper practice of his teachings. Whoever
takes a stand in this manner is bound to be victorious both within and
without, safe from such enemies as temptation and mortality.
Our nation’s flag and the people of our nation are two different
things. Just as our flag will have value only if the people of our
nation are good and preserve the fullness of the nation’s qualities; so
too, we Buddhists have to respect both our flag — images of the Buddha —
and the qualities of the Buddha if we are to be good Buddhists.
Otherwise, we will suffer from not having fulfilled our
To take an example, we Thai people, in order to be Thai in the full
sense, have to possess a number of qualifications: the ability to speak
and to read Thai, acquaintance with Thai customs and traditions, the
ability to benefit ourselves (attattha-cariya) and to spread those benefits to help care for the needs of our parents, spouses, and children (ñatatthacariya).
And not only that: If we have the ability and the energy — physical,
mental, financial, or the energy of our virtues — we should expand those
benefits to help our fellow human beings in general throughout the
nation (lokatthacariya). This is what it means to be Thai in the
full sense of the word. In the same way, we who revere the image of the
Buddha and the Buddha’s good qualities should have them with us at all
times if we are to receive the full benefits that come from being
Buddhist and to maintain the peace and well-being of Buddhists at large.
There are three levels to the Dhamma, the teachings of the Buddha —
A. Pariyatti: studying the words of the Buddha as recorded in the Canon — the Discipline, the Discourses, and the Abhidhamma.
B. Patipatti: following the practice of moral virtue, concentration, and discernment as derived from one’s study of the Canon.
C. Pativedha: Liberation.
A. The study of the Dhamma can be done in any of three ways —
1 Alagaddupama-pariyatti: studying like a water viper.
2 Nissaranattha-pariyatti: studying for the sake of emancipation.
3 Bhandagarika-pariyatti: studying to be a storehouse keeper.
Studying like a water viper means to study the words of the Buddha
without then putting them into practice, having no sense of shame at
doing evil, disobeying the monastic code, making oneself like a
poisonous snake-head, full of the fires of greed, anger, and delusion.
Studying for the sake of emancipation means to study the Buddha’s
teachings out of a desire for merit and wisdom, with a sense of
conviction and high regard for their worth — and then, once we have
reached an understanding, bringing our thoughts, words, and deeds into
line with those teachings with a high sense of reverence and respect. To
try to bring the Buddha’s teachings into line with ourselves is the
wrong approach — because, for the most part, we are full of defilements,
cravings, views, and conceits. If we act in this way we are bound to be
more at fault than those who try to bring themselves into line with the
teachings: Such people are very hard to find fault with.
Studying to be a storehouse keeper refers to the education of people
who no longer have to be trained, i.e., of arahants, the highest level
of the Noble Ones. Some arahants, when they were still ordinary,
run-of-the-mill people, heard the Dhamma directly from the Buddha once
or twice and were able immediately to reach the highest attainment. This
being the case, they lacked a wide-ranging knowledge of worldly
conventions and traditions; and so, with an eye to the benefit of other
Buddhists, they were willing to undergo a certain amount of further
education. This way of studying the Dhamma is called ’sikkha-garavata’: respect for the training.
B. The practice of the Dhamma means to conduct oneself in line with the words of the Buddha as gathered under three headings:
— Virtue: proper behavior, free from vice and harm, in terms of one’s words and deeds.
— Concentration: intentness of mind, centered on one of the themes of meditation, such as the breath.
— Discernment: insight and circumspection with regard to all
fashioned things, i.e., physical properties, aggregates, and sense
To conduct oneself in this manner is termed practicing the Dhamma. By
and large, though, Buddhists tend to practice the Dhamma in a variety
of ways that aren’t in line with the true path of practice. If we were
to classify their ways of practice, there would be three:
1 Lokadhipateyya — putting the world first.
2 Attadhipateyya — putting the self first.
3 Dhammadhipateyya — putting the Dhamma first.
To put the world first means to practice for the sake of such worldly
rewards as prestige, material gains, praise, and sensual pleasures.
When we practice this way, we are actually torturing ourselves, because
undesirable things are bound to occur: Having attained prestige, we can
lose it. Having acquired material gains, we can lose them. Having
received praise, we can receive censure. Having experienced pleasure, we
can see it disintegrate. Far from the paths, fruitions, and nibbana, we
torture ourselves by clinging to these things as our own.
To put the self first means to practice in accordance with our own
opinions, acting in line with whatever those opinions may be. Most of us
tend to side with ourselves, getting stuck on our own views and
conceits because our study of the Dhamma hasn’t reached the truth of the
Dhamma, and so we take as our standard our own notions, composed of
four forms of personal bias —
a Chandagati: doing whatever we feel like doing.
b Bhayagati: fearing certain forms of power or
authority, and thus not daring to practice the Dhamma as we truly
should. (We put certain individuals first.)
c Dosagati: acting under the power of anger, defilement, craving, conceits, and views.
d Mohagati: practicing misguidedly, not studying or
searching for what is truly good; assuming that we’re already smart
enough, or else that we’re too stupid to learn; staying buried in our
habits with no thought of extracting ourselves from our sensual
All of these ways of practice are called ‘putting the self first.’
To put the Dhamma first means to follow the Noble Eightfold Path —
a. Right View: seeing that there really is good, there really is
evil, there really is stress, that stress has a cause, that it disbands,
and that there is a cause for its disbanding.
b. Right Resolve: thinking of how to rid ourselves of whatever
qualities we know to be wrong and immoral, i.e., seeing the harm in
sensual desires in that they bring on suffering and stress.
c. Right Speech: speaking the truth; not saying anything
divisive or inciteful; not saying anything coarse or vulgar in
situations where such words would not be proper; not saying anything
useless. Even though what we say may be worthwhile, if our listener
isn’t interested then our words would still count as useless.
d. Right Action: being true to our duties, not acting in ways that would be corrupt or bring harm to ourselves or others.
e. Right Livelihood: obtaining wealth in ways that are honest, searching for it in a moral way and using it in a moral way.
f. Right Effort: persisting in ridding ourselves of all that
is wrong and harmful in our thoughts, words, and deeds; persisting in
giving rise to what would be good and useful to ourselves and others in
our thoughts, words, and deeds, without a thought for the difficulty or
weariness involved; acting persistently so as to be a mainstay to others
(except in cases that are beyond our control).
g. Right Mindfulness: being mindful and deliberate, making
sure not to act or speak through the power of inattention or
forgetfulness, making sure to be constantly mindful in our thoughts
(being mindful of the four frames of reference).
h. Right Concentration: keeping the mind centered and
resilient. No matter what we do or say, no matter what moods may strike
the heart, the heart keeps its poise, firm and unflinching in the four
levels of jhana.
These eight factors can be reduced to three — virtue, concentration,
and discernment — called the middle way, the heart of the Buddha’s
teachings. The ‘middleness’ of virtue means to be pure in thought, word,
and deed, acting out of compassion, seeing that the life of others is
like your own, that their possessions are like your own, feeling
benevolence, loving others as much as yourself. When ‘you’ and ‘they’
are equal in this way, you are bound to be upright in your behavior,
like a well-balanced burden that, when placed on your shoulders, doesn’t
cause you to tip to one side or the other. But even then you are still
in a position of having to shoulder a burden. So you are taught to focus
the mind on a single preoccupation: This can be called ‘holding in your
hands’ — i.e., holding the mind in the middle — or concentration.
The middleness of concentration means focusing on the present, not
sending your thoughts into the past or future, holding fast to a single
preoccupation (anapanaka-jhana, absorption in the breath).
As for the middleness of discernment: No matter what preoccupations
may come passing by, you are able to rid yourself of all feelings of
liking or disliking, approval or rejection. You don’t cling, even to the
one preoccupation that has arisen as a result of your own actions. You
put down what you have been holding in your hands; you don’t fasten onto
the past, present or future. This is release.
When our virtue, concentration, and discernment are all in the middle
this way, we’re safe. Just as a boat going down the middle of a
channel, or a car that doesn’t run off the side of the road, can reach
its destination without beaching or running into a tree; so too, people
who practice in this way are bound to reach the qualities they aspire
to, culminating in the paths and fruitions leading to nibbana, which is
the main point of the Buddha’s teachings.
So in short, putting the Dhamma first means to search solely for purity of heart.
C. The attainment of the Dhamma refers
to the attainment of the highest quality, nibbana. If we refer to the
people who reach this attainment, there are four sorts —
1 Sukha-vipassako: those who develop just enough
tranquillity and discernment to act as a basis for advancing to
liberating insight and who thus attain nibbana having mastered only asavakkhaya-ñana, the knowledge that does away with the fermentation of defilement.
2 Tevijjo: those who attain the three skills.
3 Chalabhiñño: those who attain the six intuitive powers.
4 Catuppatisambhidappatto: those who attain the four forms of acumen.
To explain sukha-vipassako (those who develop insight more than tranquillity): Vipassana (liberating insight) and asavakkhaya-ñana
(the awareness that does away with the fermentation of defilement)
differ only in name. In actuality they refer to the same thing, the only
difference being that vipassana refers to the beginning stage of insight, and asavakkhaya-ñana to the final stage: clear and true comprehension of the four Noble Truths.
To explain tevijjo: The three skills are —
a Pubbenivasanussati-ñana: the ability to remember past
lives — one, two, three, four, five, ten, one hundred, one thousand,
depending on one’s powers of intuition. (This is a basis for proving
whether death is followed by rebirth or annihilation.)
b Cutupapata-ñana: knowledge of where living beings are reborn — on refined levels or base — after they die.
c Asavakkhaya-ñana: the awareness that enables one to do away with the fermentations in one’s character (sensuality, states of being, ignorance).
To explain chalabhiñño: The six intuitive powers are —
a Iddhividhi: the ability to display miracles — becoming
invisible, walking on a dry path through a body of water, levitating,
going through rain without getting wet, going through fire without
getting hot, making a crowd of people appear to be only a few, making a
few to appear many, making oneself appear young or old as one likes,
being able to use the power of the mind to influence events in various
b Dibbasota: clairaudience; the ability to hear far distant sounds, beyond ordinary human powers.
c Cetopariya-ñana: the ability to know the thoughts of others.
d Pubbenivasanussati-ñana: the ability to remember previous lives.
e Dibba-cakkhu: clairvoyance; the ability to see far
distant objects, beyond ordinary human powers. Some people can even see
other levels of being with their clairvoyant powers (one way of proving
whether death is followed by rebirth or annihilation, and whether or not
there really are other levels of being).
f Asavakkhaya-ñana: the awareness that does away with the fermentation of defilement.
To explain catuppatisambhidappatto: The four forms of acumen are —
a Attha-patisambhida: acumen with regard to the sense of
the Doctrine and of matters in general, knowing how to explain various
points in line with their proper meaning.
b Dhamma-patisambhida: acumen with regard to all mental qualities.
c Nirutti-patisambhida: acumen with regard to linguistic conventions. (This can include the ability to know the languages of living beings in general.)
d Patibhana-patisambhida: acumen in speaking on the
spur of the moment, knowing how to answer any question so as to clear up
the doubts of the person asking (like the Venerable Nagasena).
This ends the discussion of the virtues of the four classes of people
— called arahants — who have reached the ultimate quality, nibbana. As
for the essence of what it means to be an arahant, though, there is only
one point — freedom from defilement: This is what it means to attain
the Dhamma, the other virtues being simply adornment.
The three levels of Dhamma we have discussed are, like the Buddha,
compared to jewels: There are many kinds of jewels to choose from,
depending on how much wealth — discernment — we have.
All of the qualities we have mentioned so far, to put them briefly so
as to be of use, come down to this: Practice so as to give rise to
virtue, concentration, and discernment within yourself. Otherwise, you
won’t have a refuge or shelter. A person without the qualities that
provide refuge and shelter is like a person without a home — a
delinquent or a vagrant — who is bound to wander shiftlessly about. Such
people are hollow inside, like a clock without any workings: Even
though it has a face and hands, it can’t tell anyone where it is, what
time it is, or whether it’s morning, noon, or night (i.e., such people
forget that they are going to die).
People who aren’t acquainted with the Dhamma within themselves are
like people blind from birth: Even though they are born in the world of
human beings, they don’t know the light of the sun and moon that enables
human beings to see. They get no benefit from the light of the sun and
moon or the light of fire; and being blind, they then go about
proclaiming to those who can see, that there is no sun, no moon, and no
brightness to the world. As a result, they mislead those whose eyes are
already a little bleary. In other words, some groups say that the
Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha don’t exist, that they were invented to fool
Now, the Dhamma is something subtle and fine, like the fire-potential (tejas)
that exists in the air or in various elements and that, if we have
enough common sense, can be drawn out and put to use. But if we’re
fools, we can sit staring at a bamboo tube [a device for starting fire
that works on the same principle as the diesel engine] from dawn to dusk
without ever seeing fire at all. Anyone who believes that there is no
Buddha, Dhamma, or Sangha, no series of paths or fruitions leading to
nibbana, no consciousness that experiences death and rebirth, is like
the fool sitting and staring at the bamboo tube.
Here I would like to tell a story as an allegory of those who aren’t
acquainted with the Dhamma. There once was a man living in the woods
who, with his five sons, started growing crops in a clearing about a
mile from their home village. He built a small shack at the clearing and
would often take his sons to stay there. One morning he started a fire
in the shack and told his sons to look after the fire, for he was going
out to hunt for food in the forest. ‘If the fire goes out,’ he told
them, ‘get some fire from my bamboo tube and start it up again.’ Then he
set out to search for food for his sons.
After he had left, his sons got so wrapped up in their play that when
they finally took a look at the fire, they found that it was completely
out. So they had the first son go get some fire to start it up again.
The first son walked over and tried knocking on the bamboo tube but
didn’t see any fire. So they had the second son get some fire from the
tube: He opened it up but didn’t see any fire inside. All he saw were
two bamboo chips but he didn’t know what to do with them. So the third
son came over for a look and, since he didn’t see any fire, he took a
knife to cut the tube in half but still didn’t see any fire. The fourth
son went over and, seeing the two halves lying there, shaved them down
into thin strips to find the fire in them but didn’t see any fire at
Finally the fifth son went over to look for fire, but before he went
he said to his brothers, ‘What’s the matter with you guys that you can’t
get any fire from the bamboo tube? What a bunch of fools you are! I’ll
go get it myself.’ With that, he went to look at the bamboo tube and
found it split into strips lying in pile. Realizing what his brothers
had done, and thinking, ‘What a bunch of hare-brains,’ he reached for a
mortar and pestle and ground up the bamboo strips to find the fire in
them. By the time he ran out of strength, he had ground them into a
powder, but he still hadn’t found any fire. So he snuck off to play by
Eventually, toward noon, the father returned from the forest and
found that the fire had gone out. So he asked his sons about it, and
they told him how they had looked for fire in the bamboo tube without
finding any. ‘Idiots,’ he thought, ‘they’ve taken my fire-starter and
pounded it to bits. For that, I won’t fix them any food. Let ‘em
starve!’ As a result, the boys didn’t get anything to eat the entire
Those of us who aren’t acquainted with the brightness of the Dhamma — ‘Dhammo padipo’
— lying within us, who don’t believe that the Dhamma has value for
ourselves and others, are lacking in discernment, like the boys looking
for fire in the bamboo tube. Thus we bring about our own ruin in various
ways, wasting our lives: born in darkness, living in darkness, dying in
darkness, and then reborn in more darkness all over again. Even though
the Dhamma lies within us, we can’t get any use from it and thus will
suffer for a long time to come, like the boys who ruined their father’s
fire-starter and so had to go without food.
The Dhamma lies within us, but we don’t look for it. If we hope for
goodness, whether on a low or a high level, we’ll have to look here,
inside, if we are to find what is truly good. But before we can know
ourselves in this way, we first have to know — through study and
practice — the principles taught by the Buddha.
Recorded Dhamma (pariyatti dhamma) is simply one of the
symbols of the Buddha’s teachings. The important point is to actualize
the Dhamma through the complete practice of virtue, concentration, and
discernment. This is an essential part of the religion, the part that
forms the inner symbol of all those who practice rightly and well.
Whether the religion will be good or bad, whether it will prosper or
decline, depends on our practice, not on the recorded doctrine, because
the recorded doctrine is merely a symbol. So if we aim at goodness, we
should focus on developing our inner quality through the Dhamma of
practice (patipatti dhamma). As for the main point of Buddhism, that’s the Dhamma of attainment (pativedha dhamma), the transcendent quality: nibbana.
The word Sangha, if translated as a substantive, refers to
those who have ordained and are wearing the yellow robe. Translated as a
quality, it refers to all people in general who have practiced
correctly in line with the Buddha’s teachings. Members of the monastic
order, however, are of all sorts, and so we have two groups —
Membership in the conventional Sangha is attained through consent of
the Order, in a formal ceremony with witnesses, following the procedures
set out in the Vinaya. Membership in the Noble Sangha is attained when
the quality of transcendence (lokuttara dhamma) appears in one’s
heart as a result of one’s own behavior and practice, with no
formalities of any sort whatsoever. All Buddhists — whether formally
ordained or not, no matter what their sex, color, or social position —
can become members of this Sangha. This is termed being ordained by the
Dhamma, or being self-ordained in a way that cannot be faulted.
To speak in abstract terms, the qualities of transcendence, stable
and sure, that appear in the hearts of those who practice — leading them
solely to the higher realms and closing off the four states of
destitution (apaya) — are, taken together, called the Noble Sangha.
A. Members of the conventional Sangha, with regard to the way they conduct themselves, fall into four groups —
1 Upajivika: those who are looking simply for ways to make
a living, without looking for any higher virtues to develop within
themselves. They use the yellow robe as a means of livelihood, without
any thought of following the threefold training of virtue,
concentration, and discernment.
2 Upakilika: those who become ordained without any
respect for the training, looking simply for pastimes for their own
enjoyment — collecting plants, playing chess, gambling, buying lottery
tickets, betting on horses — looking for gain in ways forbidden by the
Vinaya, disobeying the words of the Buddha, disregarding the virtues set
out in the scriptures, undermining the religion.
3 Upamuyuhika: those who are close-minded and
misguided, unwilling to train themselves in heightened virtue,
concentration, or discernment. Even though they may have some education
and knowledge, they still keep themselves closed-minded, making excuses
based on their teachers, the time, the place, and their accustomed
beliefs and practices. Stuck where they are, such people are unwilling
to change their ways so as to accord with the principles of the
4 Upanissarana: those who desire merit and wisdom; who
search for the true principles of the Dhamma and Vinaya; who set their
hearts on studying with reverence and respect, and conduct themselves in
line with what they have learned; who aim for the merit and wisdom
offered by Buddhism, for the path leading to release from suffering; who
rightly follow the Lord Buddha’s teachings, i.e., —
a Anupavado: They don’t berate others in inappropriate ways.
b Anupaghato: They aren’t vindictive.
c Patimokkhe ca samvaro: They stay well within the
precepts of the Patimokkha and don’t disobey the injunctions of the
Vinaya — like good citizens, desired by the nation, who stay within the
bounds of the government’s laws. (If people don’t keep within the laws
of the land, it will lead only to turmoil, because people who have no
bounds are like farmers who have no boundary markers and who will thus
infringe on one another’s property, giving rise to needless disputes and
ill-feeling, serving no purpose whatsoever.)
d Mattaññuta ca bhattasmim: They have a sense of
moderation in searching for and using the four necessities of life. They
understand how to make the best use of things — knowing what’s
beneficial and what’s harmful, what is and what isn’t of use to the
body, considering things carefully before making use of them (in line
with the principles of morality and the Buddha’s teachings).
e Pantañca sayanasanam: They favor quiet, secluded places to stay. To quote from the Canon, these include:
— Araññagato va: going to a forest wilderness, far from human society, free from social interaction
— Suññagaragato va: or to uninhabited dwellings, in places far off the beaten track.
— Rukkhamulagato va: or living under the shade of a tree, in a
cave, or under an overhanging cliff face, so as to aid the heart in
f Adhicitte ca ayogo: They make a persistent effort,
through the practice of concentration, to cleanse the heart, freeing it
from such Hindrances as sensual desire.
Etam buddhana sasanam: All of these factors are the teachings of the Buddhas.
Na hi pabbajito parupaghati
Samano hoti param vihethayanto.
How can a person who harms himself and others be a good monk?
These, then are the attributes of the Sangha. In broad terms, they come down to two sorts:
1. Sangha-nimitta: the symbol of having been ordained (the mode of dress, etc.).
2. Guna-sampatti: the inner qualifications — virtue and truth — of those worthy meditators who are held to be the field of merit for the world.
Those with the necessary resources — i.e., discernment — will obtain a
good field. Whatever seed they plant will give a yield well worth the
effort involved, just as an intelligent person who puts his savings in a
safe national bank will protect his capital from loss and even earn a
Just as a good rice field has four characteristics — the ground is
level and even, the dike has a water gate that is easy to open and
close, the soil is rich in nutrients, the rainfall comes at the proper
season — in the same way, members of the Sangha who are to be a field of
merit for the world have to be endowed with the four following
1. The analogy of level, even ground refers to those monks who
are free from the four forms of personal bias. Whatever they do in
thought, word and deed, they are free from:
a Chandagati — i.e., they don’t act solely under the power of their own likes and inclinations;
b Dosagati — or under the power of ill will or anger towards others;
c Mohagati — or under the power of delusion;
d Bhayagati — or under the power of fear or
apprehension of any sort whatsoever. They aim at what is right and true
as their major concern, both in the presence of others and in private,
keeping themselves always on a par with their principles.
2. As for the analogy of a water gate that is easy to open and
close, ‘closing’ refers to exercising restraint so that evil doesn’t
arise within us. Restraint has four aspects —
a Patimokkha-samvara-sila: staying within the bounds of the Monastic Code.
b Indriya-samvara-sila: exercising restraint over our
senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, feeling, and ideation so as to
keep the mind quiet, unagitated, and in good order.
c Ajiva-parisuddhi-sila: searching for the necessities of life — food, clothing, shelter, and medicine — only in ways that are proper.
d Paccaya-paccavekkhana-parisuddhi-sila: considering the necessities of life before using them so as not to use them out of desire or craving.
To exercise restraint in these ways is called ‘closing.’ ‘Closing,’
however, can be understood in another way, i.e., exercising restraint so
that corruption doesn’t arise in the three areas of our thoughts,
words, and deeds.
a. To close or control our deeds means, in broad terms, not to
kill living beings or to oppress or torment them in any way; not to
steal the belongings of others; and not to engage in sexual misconduct
(or in the sexual act) or to give rein to any sensual desires. Even
though such desires may arise in the heart, we keep them under control.
This is what it means to close our deeds.
b. To close our words means not to tell lies, either to others
people’s faces or behind their backs; not to speak divisively, i.e., in
a way that would lead to a needless falling-out between people; not to
speak coarsely or abusively, not cursing, swearing or being vulgar; and
not to engage in useless chatter, saying things that are of no real use
to ourselves or our listeners. To be intent on restraining ourselves in
this way is called closing off evil words so that they don’t have a
chance to arise.
c. To close off evil thoughts means:
— Anabhijjha-visama-lobha: refraining from the greed that goes above and beyond our sphere and powers to the point where dissatisfaction defiles the mind.
— Abyapada: not storing up feelings of ill will to the point where anger takes over and we let jealousy and displeasure show,
— Sammaditthi: keeping our views correct in line with right
principles, eliminating views that arise from the mind’s being clouded
and untrained — i.e., overpowered by ignorance and delusion — to the
point of believing that there is no good or evil, and from there to
deeply ingrained unwise mental states. If we take care to ward off these
unwise mental qualities so that they can’t arise in our hearts, they
will give way to Right View: seeing that there really is good, there
really is evil; that virtue, generosity, and meditation really give
results; that the paths and fruitions leading to nibbana really exist.
When we see things in this way, we have in effect closed off evil,
preventing it from penetrating our hearts, just as rice farmers close
their dykes to prevent salt water from flowing into their fields.
As for ‘opening,’ it refers to practicing the five forms of unselfishness —
a Avasamacchariya: not being possessive of the place over
which we have control, such as our temple or monastery; not preventing
good people from coming to stay. If people are pure in their behavior
and able to impart what is good to us, we should make room for them so
that they can stay in comfort. Evil people, however, shouldn’t be
allowed to infiltrate our group; and bad people who are already in the
group should be expelled. This is how to behave with discernment in this
b Kulamacchariya: not being possessive of our families.
On the external level, this refers to the families who support us. We
don’t prevent them from making offerings to other individuals and we
don’t prevent capable individuals from teaching and advising them. Some
monks stand in the way of such interchanges, creating barriers with
their thoughts, words, and deeds. Sometimes if their supporters make
merit with other individuals, they even make reprisals, such as refusing
to allow that family to make merit with their own groups or factions.
These worthless attitudes shouldn’t be allowed to arise in our hearts.
On the internal level, being possessive of our ‘family’ refers to the
heart’s attachment to sensations and mental acts, which form the family
line of unawakened people. We should abandon this attachment so that we
can enter the lineage of the Noble Ones.
c Labhamacchariya: not being possessive of the material
gains we have attained through proper means, not regarding them as
being our own. Material gains, as classified by the Vinaya, are of four
sorts: food, clothing, shelter (lodgings and the items used in them,
such as furniture, matting, etc.), and medicine. We should see that when
people present us with offerings of this sort, they have abandoned an
enemy — their own stinginess and selfishness — and have gained in worth
and wisdom through the power of their sacrifice. Anyone who receives
such an offering and clings to it as really being his own is like a
person who collects coconut pulp or sugar cane pulp from which others
have already squeezed and drunk the juice. For this reason, people of
wisdom and discernment aren’t possessive of their belongings. They are
always willing to relinquish and share their gains — in proportion to
the amount they have received — so that others can make use of them.
This is external relinquishment. As for internal relinquishment:
Whereas we once ate as we liked, many times a day, we now eat less, only
one meal a day. We use only one set of robes. We relinquish our
comfortable lodgings and undertake the ascetic practice of living in the
forest or under the shade of a tree. If we become ill, we search for
medicine and treat our disease with moderation, in a way that doesn’t
create burdens for others. In other words, we relinquish ourselves as an
offering to the religion by putting it into practice. This is classed
as the internal relinquishment of material gain through the power of our
practice and conduct.
d Vannamacchariya: not being possessive of our ‘color’ (vanna).
‘Vanna,’ here, can be interpreted in two ways. In one sense, it refers
to social caste or class. For example, the ruling class, the religious
elite, property owners, and laborers are held to be unequal in status,
and the members of one group are unwilling to let other groups mix with
theirs. If such mixing occurs, they regard it as something base and
disgraceful and so they continually put up barriers to prevent it from
happening. In this case, we can infer that we shouldn’t make
distinctions based on faction, nationality, color, or race, because the
Buddha taught that a person’s worth comes not from his or her birth, but
from the goodness of his or her own actions; or, as we say, ‘Those who
do good will meet with good, those who do evil will meet with evil.’ For
example, we worship and respect the Buddha even though he wasn’t Thai
as we are. We respect him through the power of his goodness. If we were
to be close-minded and nationalistic, we Thai’s wouldn’t have any
religion to worship at all aside from the religion of spirits and
The second sense of ‘vanna’ refers to the complexion of our skin.
This, too, we cling to, unwilling to sacrifice it for what is worthy and
good. We hesitate to observe the precepts, to meditate, or to undertake
the ascetic practices for fear that we’ll spoil our looks and
e Dhammamacchariya: not being possessive of the
Buddha’s teachings we have learned. Possessiveness in this case can mean
not wanting to teach unless we are reimbursed, not wanting to preach
unless there is an offering, or complaining if the offering is small.
On another level, being possessive of the dhamma can refer to holding on to the unskillful qualities (akusala-dhamma)
within us; being unwilling to rid ourselves of such evils as greed,
anger, delusion, pride, conceit, or any of the other fermentations of
defilement; clinging to these things without searching for the
techniques, called the Path, for relinquishing them, i.e.:
— the precepts of the Monastic Code that, if we observe them carefully,
can eliminate the common defilements arising through our words and
— the practice of concentration that, when it is developed in our
hearts, can eliminate intermediate defilements, i.e., such Hindrances as
— the discernment that, when it arises within us, can eliminate such subtle defilements from our hearts as avijja — mental murkiness; tanha — craving; and upadana — attachment to false assumptions.
When we develop these five forms of unselfishness, we can be classed
as open — and our eyes will be open to perceiving the highest quality,
3. The analogy of soil rich in nutrients refers to our putting four qualities into practice —
a Metta: good will, friendliness, hoping for our own well-being and that of all other living beings.
b Karuna: compassion for ourselves and others, which induces us to be helpful in various ways.
c Mudita: appreciation for ourselves for having
cultivated goodness; appreciation (not feeling jealousy) for the
goodness cultivated by others.
d Upekkha: equanimity in cases beyond our control. For
instance, when death has come to a person we know, we see that it is
beyond our help and so we keep our hearts neutral, not allowing feelings
of sadness or gladness to arise.
For these four qualities to arise in fully mature form, they have to
appear in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Whatever we may do in thought,
word, or deed should not be done through the power of anger. We should
regard anger as an ogre — and when anger takes over, our body becomes an
ogre’s tool: his bludgeon. To see the drawbacks of anger in this way
can give rise to good will in thought, word, and deed, extending without
partiality to all people and living beings throughout the world. Even
with our enemies we should try to develop these same thoughts of good
will, by looking for their good side, in one way or another, instead of
looking just at their bad side, which can cause hatred to invade and
consume our hearts. Anger is a fire that can’t burn other people; it
burns only ourselves. This is why we should develop good will within our
hearts. The power of good will brings good to everyone — just as food
that contains the nutrients needed by people brings health and
contentment to all who eat it; or as fertilizer with the proper
nutrients can cause plants and trees to grow, give fruit, and so be of
use to people and other living beings. Good will is thus a form of
goodness that can be classed as nourishment. (Good will is what cools
the fevers of the world.)
4. The analogy of seasonable rain refers to our establishing ourselves in the four bases of success (iddhipada) —
a Chanda: feeling a love and an affinity for goodness and virtue as much as for life, or more.
b Viriya: being persistent, audacious, and persevering in cultivating goodness within ourselves.
c Citta: being intent on whatever we set about to do.
d Vimansa: being discriminating and circumspect at all times in whatever we set about to do.
These four qualities can lead to two kinds of success: iddhiriddhi — success through the power of thought; and puññariddhi
— success that comes on its own. Both of these forms of success, on the
level of the world or the Dhamma, have to be based on the four
qualities mentioned above. These four qualities are like preservatives:
Whoever is saturated with them won’t go sour or stale. And when we’re
free from going stale, our work is bound not to stagnate and so is sure
Another comparison: These four qualities are ’sacca-kamma’ —
actions that give rise to truth, achieving our purposes. Those who bring
these qualities into themselves will become true people. Truth can be
compared to salt: If we try to keep food, like vegetables or fish,
without salting it, it soon turns rotten and wormy, making it unfit for
human consumption. But if we salt it, it can keep for a long time. A
good example of this is our Lord Buddha, whose actions gave rise to
truth and who thus was able to establish the religion so as to benefit
people at large. Even the body he left behind still serves a purpose for
human and divine beings. For instance, his bones, which have become
relics, are still with us even though he gained total liberation a long
time ago. As for his teachings, they have lasted for more than 2,500
years. And he himself is deathless, i.e., he has entered total nibbana.
All of this was achieved by means of truth, i.e., the four bases of
Those of us who have no truth, though, are like unsalted fish or
meat, and are bound to go wormy. The worms, here, refer to our various
defilements and are of three main species: The first species is composed
of affection, anger, and delusion; these feed on us from our feet to
our waists. The second species — sensual desire, ill-will, torpor,
restlessness, and uncertainty — latch on and bore into us from our
waists to our necks. And the third species — the fermentation of
sensuality, states of being, views, and ignorance (cloudy, unclear
knowledge) — eats us up whole: ears, eyes, nose, mouth, body, and mind.
Whoever is all wormy like this is classed as a person gone rotten and
stale, who hasn’t reached any qualities of substance. And for this
reason, the bones of such a person after death are no match for the
bones of chickens and pigs, for no one wants them. If the bones and meat
of such a person were put up for sale, no one would buy. And
furthermore, such a person will have to come back as an angry ghost,
lolling its tongue and rolling its eyes, to frighten its children and
Thus, whoever develops the four qualities mentioned above will reach deathlessness — amata dhamma
— which is like a crystalline shower that comes from distilling away
all impurities, just as rain water, which is distilled from the sea,
rises into the air and returns to the earth, nourishing the grasses,
crops, and trees, giving refreshment to people and other living beings.
These, then, are some of the characteristics of those who form the
field of merit for the world both on the mundane and on the transcendent
levels, who conduct themselves in keeping with the phrase in the chant
of the virtues of the Sangha:
‘The field of merit for the world.’
Now we will discuss the chant of the virtues of the Sangha further as
a path to practice, because the virtues of the Sangha are open to all
Buddhists in general, without excluding any individual, race, or social
class at all. Whoever puts these principles into practice is capable of
becoming a member of the Noble Sangha without having to go through the
formalities of the Vinaya. In other words, this is a community and a
state of worthiness open to all who put the following principles into
1 Supatipanno: being a person whose conduct is good. ‘Good conduct’ refers to seven principles —
a. We should gather frequently — for the daily chanting services,
to hear the Dhamma explained, to seek out wise people, and to join
whole-heartedly in the work of the group. This is external gathering.
What is really important, though, is internal gathering, i.e.,
collecting the mind in concentration, which is the gathering point of
all that is good and forms the basic skill for bringing the factors of
the Path together (magga-samangi).
b. When a meeting of the group disperses, we should all
disperse at the same time and not act at variance with the group. On the
internal level, we should all as a group disperse shoddiness from our
thoughts, words, and deeds.
c. We should neither establish new rules that were not
established by the Buddha nor abandon those that were. For example,
don’t make a practice of doing things the Buddha declared to be
worthless, evil, or wrong; develop within yourself the things he taught
to be good, right, and worthwhile.
d. Be respectful of your elders, teachers, parents, etc.
e. Whatever you do in thought, word, or deed, don’t act under the influence of craving, anger, or delusion.
f. Make a point of searching out virtuous people.
g. Take pleasure in solitude.
This is what is meant by good conduct.
2 Uju-patipanno: being a person whose conduct is
straightforward, firmly established in the threefold training — virtue,
concentration, and discernment — which leads straight to nibbana; being
fair and just, unswayed by any of the four forms of personal bias. This
is what is meant by straightforward conduct.
3 Ñaya-patipanno: being a person whose conduct leads to higher knowledge. This refers to following fifteen procedures (carana-dhamma) —
a Patimokkha-samvara: keeping within the precepts of the
Monastic Code, respecting the training rules of the Vinaya. (For
laypeople, this means observing the five or eight precepts.)
b Indriya-samvara: keeping watch over your senses of
sight, hearing, smell, taste, feeling, and ideation so as to keep the
mind collected and at peace.
c Bhojane mattaññuta: knowing moderation in the requisites of life, i.e., eating only just enough food.
d Jagariyanuyoga: being persistent in cleansing the mind so that it is pure and bright, not allowing lapses in mindfulness or alertness to occur.
e Saddha: conviction, i.e., being convinced of the
truth of good and evil, of the paths and their fruitions; having
conviction in people who merit it.
f Hiri: feeling shame at the thought of doing evil, not doing evil either in public or in private.
g Ottappa: having a sense of dread at the thought of doing evil.
h Bahusacca: being well-educated and always willing to learn.
i Viriya: being persistent, unflagging, and courageous in performing your duties.
j Sati: being mindful before doing anything in thought, word, or deed.
k Pañña: developing discernment as to what should and should not be done, as to what is and isn’t beneficial.
l Pathama-jhana: the first jhana, composed of five
factors — directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, and
singleness of preoccupation. (Jhana means to be absorbed in or focused
on a single object or preoccupation, as when we deal with the breath.)
m Dutiya-jhana: the second jhana, composed of three factors — rapture, pleasure, and singleness of preoccupation.
n Tatiya-jhana: the third jhana, composed of two factors — pleasure and singleness of preoccupation.
o Catuttha-jhana: the fourth jhana, composed of two
factors — equanimity and pure mindfulness, which is the single
preoccupation of your concentration.
This is what is meant by conduct leading to higher knowledge.
Here we will discuss how to give rise to the first jhana.
Directed thought: Think of the breath until you can recognize it both as it comes in and as it goes out.
Singleness of preoccupation: Let the mind become one, at rest with
the breath, not straying away to other objects. Watch over your thoughts
so that they deal only with the breath until the breath becomes
Evaluation: Focus exclusively on issues connected with the breath and
acquaint yourself with how to let this comfortable breath-sensation
spread and co-ordinate with the other breath-sensations in the body. Let
these breath-sensations spread until they all merge. Once the body has
been soothed by the breath, feelings of pain will grow calm. The body
will be filled with good breath energy.
For jhana to arise, these three factors have to be brought to bear on
the same breath sensation. This breath sensation can lead all the way
to the fourth jhana, the level of refinement depending on the act of
focusing through the power of mindfulness: Sometimes the focus is broad,
sometimes narrow, in accordance with the different factors on the
different levels. But to be really beneficial, you should let the breath
spread as broadly as possible, being constantly aware throughout the
body of the various aspects of the breath. You will then get excellent
results from your practice of jhana. You might even gain liberating
insight on this level, because the first jhana is what constitutes
threshold concentration (upacara samadhi).
If you want to go on to fixed penetration (appana samadhi),
you should keep practicing this level until you are skilled, i.e.,
skilled at fixing the mind on a single object, at adjusting and
expanding the object, and at staying in place. When you want your
concentration to have energy, make the breath light and refined — but
keep your mindfulness broad. Otherwise, the mind might go into arupa jhana,
where it has no sense of the form of the body; or you might sit
absolutely still, without any awareness of the body at all, while the
mind pays attention to another area, such as simple awareness,
completely disregarding the body or sitting unconscious, like a log.
This is bahira-jhana, concentration outside of the Buddha’s teachings, incapable of giving rise to liberating insight.
So when you begin, you should develop the three above-mentioned
factors as much as possible, and the mind will then be able to go on to
the second jhana. When you fix the mind on the breath repeatedly using
these three beginning factors, they give rise to two more factors:
Rapture: a sense of fullness and refreshment of body and mind, going straight to the heart, independent of all else.
Pleasure: a sense of ease arising from the body’s being still and undisturbed (kaya-passaddhi), and from the mind’s being at rest on its own, placid and serene (citta-passaddhi).
The factors of the first jhana, then, are of two sorts: cause and
result. The causes are directed thought, evaluation, and singleness of
preoccupation; the results, rapture and pleasure, .
As for the second jhana, with its three factors of rapture, pleasure,
and singleness of preoccupation: This refers to the state of mind that
has tasted the results coming from the first jhana. The sense of
fullness becomes more powerful, as does the sense of pleasure, allowing
the mind to abandon its thinking and evaluating, so that the singleness
of the preoccupation takes the lead from here on in. Make the mind still
in the refined sense of the breath. Body and mind are full and at ease;
the mind is more firmly implanted in its object than before. After a
while, as you keep focusing in, the sense of fullness and pleasure
begins to move. Focus the mind down to a more refined level and you will
enter the third jhana.
The third jhana has two factors — pleasure and singleness of
preoccupation: The mind is solitary; the body, solitary and still. The
breath is refined and broad, with a white glow like cotton-wool
throughout the body, stilling all painful feelings in body and mind. Not
a single Hindrance (nivarana) arises to interfere. The four
properties — earth, water, fire, and wind — are at peace with one
another in every part: You could almost say that they’re pure throughout
the entire body. The mind is completely still — steady, solid, and sure
— reaching oneness in a solitary sense of ease. Body and mind are in
solitude. Even if you’re with a group of people, you feel as if you were
alone. The mind is strong, ardent, and expansive. Mindfulness is broad —
spreading throughout the body, focused exclusively on the present, not
affected by any allusions to past or future. The breath gives rise to an
energy that is pure white. The mind has power. The focus is strong, and
the light brilliant. Energy is unwavering, so that you are no longer
concerned with your sense of pleasure, which dilates somewhat. This
causes the mind to focus on into the fourth jhana.
The fourth jhana has two factors — equanimity and singleness of
preoccupation (or mindfulness). The breath energy is still, with no
ripples or gaps. The properties of the body are undisturbed. As for the
mind, it is undisturbed with regard to all three time periods:
uninvolved with the past, uninvolved with the future, undisturbed by the
present. When the mind stays with this undisturbed sense of equanimity,
this is the true meaning of ’singleness of preoccupation.’ The breath
is at peace, the body at peace in every part. There is no need to use
the in-and-out breath. The breath energy has reached saturation point.
The four properties (dhatu) are equal, all with the same
characteristics. The mind is completely at peace, with a brilliance
streaming in all directions. The brilliance of the breath at peace
reaches full strength. The brilliance of the mind arises from the power
of mindfulness focused on all four of the great frames of reference:
body, feelings, mind, and mental qualities. The question of their being
four doesn’t arise, for in this mental moment they coalesce in perfect
unity. The brilliance of the mind and of the body, which arises from the
power of their solitary stillness, shines as jagariyanuyoga, the purifying inner fire (tapas)
that can dispel darkness thoroughly. The bright light of the mind
reaches full strength. The purity of the different parts of the breath
energy keeps the other properties in good order. The body is completely
at peace, like a factory at rest. In other words, you don’t have to use
the in-and-out breath. The body develops potency; the mind, resilient
power. When these reach saturation point, if you then want to give rise
to knowledge, shift your awareness so that it dilates slightly, and the
important skills that arise from the power of the mind — such as the
Eight Skills — will appear, i.e.,:
1 Vipassana-ñana: clear insight into the elements, aggregates, and sense media.
2 Manomayiddhi: the ability to achieve one’s aims through the power of thought.
3 Iddhividhi: the ability to display a variety of supra-normal powers.
4 Dibba-sota: clairaudience, the ability to hear far distant sounds.
5 Cetopariya-ñana: the ability to know the mental states of other people.
6 Pubbe-nivasanussati-ñana: the ability to remember
past lives. (This is a basis for proving whether death is followed by
annihilation or rebirth, and whether or not there really are other
levels of existence.)
7 Dibba-cakkhu: clairvoyance, the inner eye that arises from the power of the mind, relying to some extent on the optic nerves.
8 Asavakkhaya-ñana: knowing how to eliminate the fermentations of defilement as they relate to your various forms of knowledge.
If you want to give rise to supernormal powers, formulate an
intention at that point, and it will appear openly, so that ordinary
people will be able to see it.
Both of these aspects — knowledge and power — can lead to mastery on
the level of the world and of the Dhamma. The properties in the body
acquire potency; the mind becomes a potent center of consciousness. This
is the science of the mind on an advanced level, giving rise to an
advanced form of Buddhist learning: lokavidu, wide-ranging knowledge of the cosmos.
To develop the factors discussed here is to warrant the name, ñaya-patipanno, one whose conduct leads to higher knowledge.
(The moment in which the enemies of the body — impure properties — disband and disappear is termed ’sankhata-lakkhana-nirodha,’
conditioned disbanding. When the enemies of the mind — i.e., the five
Hindrances — disappear completely, leaving the mind radiant and clear,
that is termed ‘bhujissaka-nirodha,’ disbanding in a state of dependency.)
4 Samici-patipanno: being a person whose conduct is masterful. This refers to our conduct in developing two qualities: tranquillity and insight.
a. The practice of tranquillity means stilling the mind in a
single preoccupation, free from the five Hindrances, so as to attain the
four levels of rupa-jhana.
b. The practice of insight means seeing clearly and truly into the nature of all conditioned things (sankhara),
e.g., seeing that they are inconstant, stressful, and not-self; gaining
discernment that sees distinctly in terms of the four Noble Truths;
seeing conditioned things from both sides, i.e., the side that is
inconstant, stressful, and not-self, and the side that is constant,
pleasant, and self; giving rise to the state of pure knowledge and
vision termed ‘gotarabhu-ñana,’ escaping from the assumption that
things are either constant or inconstant; knowing both the side that
arises and disbands, as well as the side that doesn’t arise and doesn’t
disband, without making assumptions about or being attached to either
side. Theories, views, and conceits disappear. The mind doesn’t fasten
onto anything, past, present, or future. This is termed ‘asesa-viraga-nirodha,’ utter disbanding and dispassion. This is the way of insight.
Insight, analyzed in detail in terms of the Doctrine in line with the
conventions of the sages of the past, means knowledge of the four Noble
— Dukkha: mental and physical stress, the result of being overcome by the power of birth, aging, illness, death, and defilement.
— Samudaya: the cause of stress — i.e., tanha, craving or thirst — which includes kama-tanha, insatiable craving for sensual pleasures; bhava-tanha, the desire to be or have certain states of being; and vibhava-tanha, the desire not to be or have certain states of being.
— Nirodha: the disbanding of stress; the extinguishing of the fires of defilement.
— Magga: the path of practice that puts an end to craving, the cause of stress.
All four of these Noble Truths already exist in the world, but
ordinarily are hard to perceive because they show us only their images
or reflections. On this level, we can’t yet see them for what they
really are. But for the Buddha to know them, he had to start out with
the reflections that appear, before he was able to trace them back to
the real thing. This is why they are termed Noble Truths: They are the
possessions of noble people; only those who search and explore can know
them. Thus, the Noble Truths have two aspects: their first aspect, which
is the way they are found in the experience of ordinary people in
general; and their second aspect, which is more subtle and can be known
only by people of wisdom who explore in the area of the heart and mind.
An example of the four Truths on the ordinary level, as experienced
by ordinary people: Physical discomfort, such as illness or disease, can
be called the truth of stress. Knowing enough to buy the right
medicine, or being a doctor who knows the medicine for curing that
particular kind of disease, is the truth of the path. As the symptoms of
the disease disappear, that is termed conditional disbanding. When the
disease is cured, that is the truth of disbanding. If, however, we
suffer from a disease, such as a wound, but don’t know how to treat it —
simply wanting it to heal and using whatever medicine we can lay our
hands on, without knowing whether it’s right or wrong (this is termed
craving and ignorance) — the wound will only worsen, for the medicine we
take isn’t right for the disease. This is the truth of the cause of
If we want to go deeper than the ordinary level, we have to practice
correctly in line with the way of the Path, developing our virtue,
concentration, and discernment, before we will be able to perceive the
four Truths on the noble level.
The essence of the Dhamma, by its nature, lies mixed with its outer
accretions. If we don’t have the right knowledge and skill, we won’t get
very much use from the Dhamma. Whatever benefits we do get will be only
on the mundane level. We can make a comparison with diamond or gold ore
buried in the ground: If a person doesn’t have enough knowledge to
extract the ore, he will get only the traces that come flowing out in
spring water or that adhere to rocks along the surface of the ground.
These will earn him only a meager profit, which won’t be enough for a
living. A person with knowledge and skill, though, can use the gold to
make a living without having to search for any other occupations, but
he’ll have to follow the traces down into the earth until he meets with
the real thing, i.e., the genuine ore. Even just a single hunk — if it’s
large and of high quality, weighing a ton — will enable him to rest
secure for the rest of his life. In the same way, those who are wise in
Buddhism see stress as a noble treasure and so go digging down into
stress; they see the cause of stress as a noble treasure and so dig down
into it; they see the Path as a noble treasure; they see disbanding and
liberation as noble treasures and so dig on down until they meet with
the genuine ore. Only then can they be called noble sages.
Those of us who are dauntless enough to unearth our inner resources
in this way will be able to use those resources to protect ourselves
throughout time, gaining release from the cycle of rebirth, the jail for
imprisoning foolish and ignorant people. We who like to explore in
general should be glad that we’ve come across a good mine with genuine
ore whose traces lie scattered about for us to see. If we don’t
disregard the things we see, we’ll meet the four Truths mentioned above.
If we were to summarize the four Noble Truths briefly, we could do so
as follows: The objects or preoccupations of the mind that arise and
disappear are the truth of stress. The mental act that enters into and
takes possession of those objects is the truth of the cause of stress.
The mental act that focuses in on those objects and examines them as
they arise and disappear is the truth of the Path; and the mental act
that lets go of those objects as they arise and disappear is the truth
of disbanding, or release — i.e., that which knows the reality that
doesn’t arise and doesn’t disappear.
These, then, are the four Noble Truths. Those who see these four
Truths directly for themselves will give rise to the noble path and
fruition termed ’stream-entry.’ Such people are a field of merit for the
world: worthy of respect, worthy of welcome, worthy of offerings and
Whoever possesses the qualities mentioned here qualifies rightly as a
member of the Sangha in line with the Doctrine and Discipline taught by
the Buddha, and may be called, samici-patipanno, one whose conduct is masterful, reaching the apex of the mundane level and becoming transcendent.
B. Now we will discuss the second main
heading, the Noble Sangha, the family of the Noble Ones, which may be
joined by virtue of having developed one’s inner qualities, with no need
to go through the formalities of the Vinaya. The Noble Sangha, like the
conventional Sangha, is composed of four groups:
1 Stream-winners: those who have reached the beginning
stage of the flow to nibbana. At most they will have to be reborn only
seven more times. They have developed enough tranquillity and insight
for the Path to converge in a single mental instant, enabling them to
gain true insight into all phenomena — mundane and transcendent — as
they really are. When they see in this way, they have cut three of the
Fetters (sanyojana) that keep living beings under the spell of the world. The Fetters they have cut absolutely are —
a Sakkaya-ditthi: the view that the body — together with
its properties, aggregates, and sense media — belongs to the self.
Stream-winners, unlike ordinary run-of-the-mill people, don’t hold that
these things are the self or belong to the self. They see them simply as
common property — that we didn’t bring them when we came and won’t take
them when we go — and that they arise simply through kamma.
b Vicikiccha: doubt and uncertainty about the practices
one is following. Stream-winners have no such doubts, because they have
reached the quality attained by the Buddha.
c Silabbata-paramasa: attachment to customs or
traditions that are held to be good in this way or that. Stream-winners
are not attached to any external practices dealing with actions or
These three Fetters, stream-winners have cut absolutely, once and for
all. They have attained the noble quality of having closed off
completely the four states of deprivation. In other words, they are
destined never again to be born in hell, on the level of the angry
demons, the level of the hungry ghosts, or the level of common animals.
This is what it means to close off all four states of deprivation.
2 Once-returners: those who have gained the second
level of Awakening, who will attain nibbana after being born once more
in the world. Once-returners have cut three Fetters, like
stream-winners, but have also reduced the amount of desire, anger, and
delusion in their hearts. (They know how to keep the mind within
3. Non-returners: those who have awakened to the third
level and who will never again return to the human world. After they die
they will be born in the Brahma worlds on the levels of the Pure
Abodes, there to attain nibbana. They have absolutely abandoned five of
the Fetters —
d Kamaraga: passion and delight caused by the power of sensual desires and sensual objects.
e Patigha: irritation and displeasure caused by the power of anger.
4 Arahants: those who have awakened to the ultimate
level of the four Noble Truths and have reached the quality of
deathlessness, free from all the fermentations of defilement; whose
ignorance, craving, attachments, and kamma have ended. Arahants have
abandoned their Fetters by means of the factors of the highest of the
noble paths. The Fetters they have abandoned are ten:
f Ruparaga: passion for the sense of form that can act as the object of rupa jhana.
g Aruparaga: passion for formless phenomena, such as the feeling of pleasure that comes from seclusion.
h Mana: conceiving or construing oneself to be like this or that.
i Uddhacca: restlessness and distraction, being carried
away with one’s thoughts. The thoughts on this level deal with the
activity of discernment, which is something good, but they go out of
j Avijja: ignorance, i.e., not recognizing stress, its
cause, its disbanding, and the path to its disbanding — in short, not
being acquainted with the conditioned phenomena (sankhata dhamma) that exist within each of us; not being acquainted with the unconditioned (asankhata dhamma), which is a genuine property, existing naturally. This, briefly, is what avijja means.
Another meaning for avijja is not being acquainted with the way we
are — e.g., not recognizing our concepts of the past and thus becoming
immersed in them; not recognizing our concepts of the future; not
recognizing the present, which is the important aspect of all physical
and mental phenomena. Thus, delusion with regard to all three time
periods is called avijja: counterfeit knowledge, falling short of the
four genuine Truths.
These ten Fetters, arahants — both men and women — have cut
absolutely, freeing themselves from every sort of bond or domination, so
that their hearts are brilliant and dazzling, like the full moon in a
cloudless sky. This is samici-patipanno — one whose conduct is masterful — on the transcendent level.
The four groups mentioned here are termed the Ariya Sangha, the Noble
Community, which can be found only in Buddhism. Therefore, all
Buddhists who daily pay homage to the Sangha should make themselves
aware of what the Sangha is, of how genuine or counterfeit the members
of the Sangha are. Otherwise, our respect will be blind and misguided,
ignorant of the true nature of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. We should
use our judgment and reason to be selective so that we can help one
another look after the state of the religion, bringing it into proper
line with the principles of the Buddha’s teachings.
The Sangha can be compared to a tree: Some members are like the
heartwood, others are like the sapwood, others are like the outer bark,
and still others are like parasitic creepers. Another popular analogy is
to compare the Sangha to a jewel. Now, there are many kinds of jewels,
just as there are many parts to a tree: artificial gems, zircons,
rubies, amethysts, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds. Just as all of
these are called jewels, and are all of differing value, so it is with
the members of the Sangha. Whoever is rich in discernment will obtain a
valuable jewel as an adornment. Whoever is poor in discernment will end
up with nothing but artificial gems or bits of gravel: Some people
believe that all who wear the yellow robe are alike. They ‘make
donations to the yellow robe,’ or ‘pay respect to the yellow robe,’ or
‘make donations to the virtuous’… Thus I ask that all Buddhists make a
point of learning where the gems of the religion that we as a nation
revere may be found.
A person who doesn’t know what the Sangha is, is like a child who
doesn’t know his family and relatives — who doesn’t know who his father
is, who his mother is, who his elder brothers and sisters are. When this
is the case, he has no one to rely on. If he tries to rely on others,
he can do so only as long as he has money in his pockets. As soon as he
runs out of money, he’s in for trouble: His friends and companions are
sure to act as if they don’t recognize him; and he can’t turn to his
family and relatives because he doesn’t know who they are. So in the end
he’ll meet with nothing but suffering.
This is why we’re taught that, as long as we still have life, we
shouldn’t rest complacent. We should urgently make the virtues of the
Sangha our guardians — because our friend, the body, can be relied on
only as long as it doesn’t die. And when the time comes, who will care
for us aside from our guardians, the virtues of the Sangha?
We shouldn’t waste our time engrossed simply with the life of the
body for, as far as I can see, there’s nothing to the life of the body
but eating and then sleeping, sleeping and then eating again. If we let
ourselves get stuck simply on the level of sleeping and eating, we’re
headed for trouble. This can be illustrated with a story:
Once in a village by the seaside, there came a time of unbalance in
the natural elements, and large numbers of the livestock — the water
buffaloes — died of the plague. The men of the village, fearing that the
disease would spread, took the buffalo carcasses and threw them into
the sea. As the carcasses floated away from shore, a flock of crows came
to feed on them for many days. Each day, when the crows had eaten their
fill, they would fly back to spend the night in the trees by the shore;
and then would fly out the following dawn to continue eating. As days
passed, and the carcasses floated further and further out to sea, some
of the crows — seeing the hardships in flying back to shore — decided to
spend the night floating on the carcasses; others of the flock, though,
didn’t mind the hardships and continued flying back to shore every
Finally, when the carcasses had floated so far out to sea that flying
back and forth was no longer possible, the flock decided to abandon
that source of food and to search for a new source of food on land. One
of the crows, though, had stayed with the carcasses; when he saw that
his fellows were no longer coming to claim a share of the food, he
became overjoyed, thinking that the food he had would last him a long
time. He became so engrossed in his eating that he never thought of
looking back to shore. As the carcasses went floating further and
further out, swarms of fish came from below to devour them until there
was nothing left to eat. Finally, the remains of the carcasses sank deep
into the sea; and at that point, the crow decided that the time had
come to fly back to shore. With this in mind, he flew to the north, but
didn’t see land. He flew to the south, to the east and west, but didn’t
see land. Finally, he ran out of strength and could fly no further, and
so lowered his wings and dropped into the sea, where he became food for
This is human life. If we let ourselves become engrossed only with
eating and sleeping and physical pleasures, without searching for virtue
— i.e., if we don’t practice the virtues of the Sangha as we’ve been
taught — we’re sure to reap the rewards — suffering — just like the crow
who fell to his death in the sea. This story is about us: The sea
stands for the world, the flood of rebirth; the buffalo carcasses stand
for the body; the trees on the shore stand for the Dhamma, and the crows
stand for the heart — i.e., sometimes we feel like practicing the
Dhamma and sometimes we don’t.
The virtues of the Sangha are subtle, deep, and hard to perceive. If
we don’t have knowledge of ourselves, we won’t be able to see them, just
as a mute person doesn’t know how to speak his native tongue.
Here I would like to tell another story to illustrate what it means
not to know the virtues of the Sangha. Once there was a mute person who
made his living by playing a conch shell trumpet. Now, the way he played
the conch shell was to make it sound like human voices or animal calls.
When he had perfected his skill, he wandered about the cities and
country towns, playing his conch. One day he went to play in a village
deep in the countryside. As he was about to reach the village, he
stopped to rest under the shade of a tree and picked up his conch to
practice for a moment. Within minutes a swarm of people, hearing the
sound of the conch, came bursting from the village to see what it was.
They came across the mute man sitting under the tree and so asked him,
‘What was that beautiful sound we heard a moment ago?’ The mute man
pointed to the conch shell lying nearby. The people, thinking that they
had heard the cry of the conch, ran over to tap on it to make it cry
again, but it didn’t make a sound. Some of them picked it up and tried
shaking it, but still no sound, so they put it back down. Others turned
it over to see exactly where its cry came from, but no matter what they
did, the sound of the conch wouldn’t come out. So they ran back to the
The mute person didn’t know what to say, but he could tell from their
actions that they wanted to know what made the sound of the conch come
out in such a variety of calls, so he pointed to his mouth. The
villagers ran to take a look. They had him open his mouth and looked up
and down inside, but didn’t see how it could be made to sound. So the
mute man flickered his tongue for them to see. With this, they realized
that the sound came from the mute man’s tongue; and so they tried
flickering their own tongues, but no beautiful sounds came out. So they
ran back to the mute man, who blew air out of his mouth, meaning that
the sound came from the breath. They tried blowing air from their own
mouths, but still no beautiful sounds. Finally, the mute man reached for
the conch, put it to his lips — and out came the beautiful sounds: the
sounds of people crying, people laughing, people wailing and mourning,
the sounds of birds, mice, and forest beasts.
So it is with us: If we don’t know how to train ourselves so as to
attain the virtues of the Sangha, we won’t know how beneficial to us the
Sangha can be. We’ll become uncivilized savages, not knowing whether
the Sangha is good or bad, and we’ll end up like the villagers who
didn’t know where the sound of the conch came from.
This story doesn’t refer to anything distant: The mute man, producing
various sounds from his conch shell, stands for preaching monks. For
example, sometimes they try to be correct, proper, and principled in
their preaching; sometimes they preach like animals, i.e., using a
song-like voice or cracking jokes that go beyond the bounds of the
Dhamma and Vinaya. In this way, they are like the man blowing the conch.
As for the villagers who came running wide-eyed to hear the sound of
the conch, they stand for Buddhist lay people who don’t understand the
virtues of the Sangha and thus are destined not to find the Sangha, just
as the villagers couldn’t find the sound of the conch. When this is the
case, they will simply shell out money to hear the sound of conch
trumpets, without any thought of the practices taught by the Buddha.
Monks will be deluded into blowing conch shells for their living,
without any thought of the qualities of the Sangha; and so our religion
will degenerate day by day, becoming ultimately a theater or playhouse
for the world.
This has been an extended discussion of the Triple Gem. If we were to
put it briefly, there wouldn’t be a great deal to say. We’ve kept the
discussion drawn-out in this way so as to show the general usefulness of
the Triple Gem for those who revere it. If you want to go for refuge in
the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha in a way that will reach their genuine
benefits, then you should gather their main points into yourself, training yourself so as to give rise to the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha in your heart. This is where the value of the Triple Gem lies.
The gist of our discussion of the Triple Gem comes down simply to this:
A. ‘Buddha’ can be divided into a number of levels. The
‘Buddha’ of his physical representatives refers to Buddha images,
stupas, and places worthy of veneration such as his birthplace, the
place of his Awakening, the place where he delivered his first sermon,
and the place where he entered total nibbana, which at present lie
within the boundaries of India and Nepal. All of these things qualify on
the physical level as symbols of the Buddha for those who revere them,
but they may be disqualified if the people who revere them lack the
necessary inner qualifications. Take Buddha images as an example: You
should understand Buddha images as having three characteristic types —
1. those inhabited by angry demons;
2. those inhabited by divinities;
3. those that people of virtue have invested with the potency of the mind — these can be termed, ‘inhabited by the Dhamma.’
In other words, Buddha images can be beneficial or harmful depending
on how they are used by those who revere them. Even people who use them
as charms in committing robbery, casting spells, or performing black
magic may get results because of the power of their conviction. But if
we can be selective and use these images in ways that are right, the
potency they contain will benefit us, bringing us blessings and
protecting us from danger. Thus, the symbols of the Buddha can function
in various ways. There is much more to this topic, but if we were to
discuss it here, it would draw things out even further. These images can
either qualify or be disqualified as symbols of the Buddha, depending
on the people who revere them, but the images in themselves are neutral.
The important point for people who hope for true welfare, though, is
to invest themselves with the qualities that serve on the inner level as
symbols of reverence for the Buddha. These qualities are three —
1 Sati: wakefulness.
2 Pañña: the intuitive discernment and cognitive skill that come from concentrating the mind.
3 Vimutti: purity and release from mental defilement: This is the essence of ‘Buddha-ratanam,’ the gem of the Buddha.
B. Dhamma: Good Dhamma is of three sorts —
1 Pariyatti: This refers to studying and memorizing
passages from the Canon, which qualifies on the physical level as a
symbol of the Dhamma taught by the Buddha. But this, too, can either
qualify or be disqualified as a symbol. Some people, for example, use
passages from the Dhamma in committing robbery or casting spells. For
instance, they repeat the chant of the virtues of the Dhamma or the
phrase, ‘Namo buddhaya,’ three times or seven times, and then
commit thievery or highway robbery, believing that they have made
themselves invincible. Or when casting spells, they repeat the phrase, ‘Na-metta, mo-karuna, da-love me, I won’t go, you come, omasavaha’ — they say that this makes a woman really fall for a man. This sort of thing disqualifies the phrase, even though its original meaning may have been something good.
But if we revere the Dhamma and make use of it through the power of
our conviction, memorizing passages of Pali for the sake of what is good
and pure, and then putting them into use, they will give rise to merit.
For example, if we repeat the phrase, ‘Dhammam saranam gacchami (I go to the Dhamma for refuge),’ or ‘Namo buddhaya
(Homage to the Buddha),’ with heartfelt conviction, giving rise to a
sense of joy, this mental state can then serve to protect us from
certain kinds of accidents and harm. We may reap real benefits from the
phrase we repeat. This is something that people who have respect for the
Dhamma should investigate carefully.
These passages, then, can qualify as symbols of the Dhamma — or be disqualified, if we don’t know their true aims.
2 Patipatti: This refers to behaving sincerely in line with the Buddha’s teachings:
a Sila: putting our thoughts, words, and deeds in order.
b Samadhi: keeping the mind firmly intent in the four levels of jhana, free from the mental Hindrances.
3 Pativedha: This refers to extinguishing defilement
completely, releasing the mind from all suffering and stress. This
qualifies as the essence of the Dhamma.
All three of the levels mentioned here form the inner qualifications of those who truly revere and follow the Dhamma.
C. Sangha: If we translate this as a substantive, it
refers to those who shave their heads and wear the yellow robe as a sign
of having been ordained. These people can qualify on the external level
as symbols of the Sangha or they may be disqualified. To qualify, they
have to meet three criteria:
1 Vatthu-sampatti: The individual to be ordained as a monk has to possess the proper characteristics as stipulated in the Vinaya.
2 Sangha-sampatti: The monks who gather to witness the ordination constitute a legitimate quorum.
3 Sima-sampatti: The place in which the ordination is held has had its boundaries properly defined.
When an individual ordains in line with these criteria, he qualifies
as a symbol of the Sangha. But viewed from another angle, if the
individual has met these criteria and becomes a monk but doesn’t behave
in line with the Dhamma and Vinaya — disobeying the training rules
established by the Buddha, committing major and minor offenses with no
sense of shame — he becomes disqualified on the personal level, just as a
Buddha image that has been properly consecrated but is then put to
improper uses by evil or lowminded people is bound to lead to harm. A
monk with no sense of conscience or shame is like a Buddha image
inhabited by an angry demon. Normally, when an angry demon takes
possession of a person, it reveals itself by its behavior. For example,
when some angry demons take possession, they like to run around naked,
harassing other people. If a person has no sense of conscience or shame,
it’s as if he were possessed by an angry demon. In other words, if he
doesn’t have any moral restraint, it’s as if he lacked the clothing
needed to hide his nakedness. And when this is the case, he is
disqualified as a symbol of the Sangha.
A person who meets the three external qualifications mentioned above
has to behave in line with the inner virtues of the Sangha —
1.a. Caga: relinquishing external and internal enemies (worries and concerns).
b. Sila: keeping one’s words and deeds in proper order.
To have these two qualities is to qualify as a human being (supatipanno).
2.a. Hiri: having a sense of shame at the thought of doing evil; not daring to do evil in public or private.
b. Ottappa: having a sense of dread at the thought of the results of doing evil.
If a monk has these qualities (termed ‘deva-dhamma,’ the principles of heavenly beings), it’s as if he were inhabited by a celestial being (uju-patipanno).
3 Samadhi: steadying the mind so as to reach the first
jhana and then developing it up to the fourth level, making it radiant
and free from the mental Hindrances. If a monk does this, it’s as if he
were inhabited by a Brahma, for he has the inner qualifications of a
4 Pañña, vijja, vimutti: gaining release from the
mundane level, abandoning the three Fetters beginning with
self-identification, reaching the Dhamma of the Buddha, attaining the
state where we are guaranteed by the Buddha as being upright,
dependable, honest, and sincere toward the Dhamma and Vinaya; gaining
Awakening following his example, becoming a reliable member of the
Sangha. Such people are termed ‘ariya sotapanna’ — Noble Ones who have reached the stream — and deserve to be called ‘visuddhi-deva,’
divinities through purity, whose virtues are higher than those of human
beings, deities, Indra, or Brahma. Even though such people are still
subject to death and rebirth, they are not like other human beings. The
pure aspect of their heart will never again become defiled. Thus they
deserve to be called, in a partial sense, divinities through purity
All four of these qualities form the inner qualifications of the Sangha.
Speaking in terms of these inner qualifications, every person can
become a member of the Sangha. But if we don’t develop these qualities
within ourselves and then take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha
only on the external level, how will we get the full benefits? We’re
taught that if we can’t depend on ourselves, there is no way we can hope
to depend on others. For example, if an evil person breaks the law,
commits robbery, and then asks the government to give him help, you can
rest assured that the only help the government will give him will be to
build a place for him to live in discomfort — a jail. In the same way,
if we don’t behave in line with the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and
Sangha, how can we go around taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and
Sangha? The Buddha taught:
Attahi attano natho, ko hi natho paro siya.
‘The self is its own refuge, for who else could be refuge?’
Thus we should develop the inner qualifications of the Buddha,
Dhamma, and Sangha within ourselves. Then we will belong to the company
of the Buddha’s followers. If we belong to the religion as lay women, we
are called ‘upasika.’ If we belong as lay men, we are called ‘upasaka.’ If we observe the ten precepts and are endowed with the virtues of the Sangha, we are termed ’samanera.’ If we take a vow to join the community of those who fully observe the 227 precepts, we are termed ‘bhikkhu.’
When we join the company of the Buddha’s followers in this way, all
people in general who practice and revere the teachings will benefit —
just as when we meet the qualifications of a good citizen as set out by
the government: If we are trained and educated to be good, we are bound
to help the nation progress and prosper. But if we don’t view ourselves
as part of the nation and don’t think of making a living to support
ourselves, and instead simply go around looking for pleasure or for help
from others, the results are bound to be bad.
Therefore, we as Buddhists have to study and practice before we can
be Buddhists of virtue and value. We will then reap rewards in the
visible present. And even if we are no longer able to live in this
world, then when our bodies die and we head for another world, we have a
good bourn awaiting us, as in the verse from the Maha-samaya Sutta:
Ye keci buddham saranam katase
Na te gamissanti apaya-bhumim.
Pahaya manusam deham
‘Those who reach the refuge of the Buddha (in their own hearts, with
purity) will close off all four of the lower realms (such as hell). When
they leave this life they are bound for a good bourn (heaven), there to
fill the ranks of the gods.’
Buddham dhammam sangham jivitam yava-nibbanam saranam gacchami.
‘I go to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha as my life and refuge till reaching nibbana.’
Buddhist Concept of Governance
Countries and territories without any cases of COVID-19
1. Comoros,2. North Korea,3. Yemen,4.
The Federated States of Micronesia,5. Kiribati,6. Solomon Islands,7.
The Cook Islands,8. Micronesia,9. Tong,10. The Marshall Islands
Palau,11. American Samoa,12. South Georgia,13. South Sandwich
Islands,14.SaintHelena,Europe,15. Aland Islands,16.Svalbard,17. Jan
Mayen Islands,18. Latin America,19.Africa,20.British Indian Ocean
Territories,22.Lesotho,23.Oceania,24.Christmas Island,25. Cocos
(Keeling) Islands,26. Heard Island,27. McDonald Islands,28. Niue,29.
Norfolk Island,30. Pitcairn,31. Solomon Islands,32. Tokelau,33. United
States Minor Outlying Islands,34. Wallis and Futuna Islands,35.Tajikistan,
1. Dasa raja dhamma, 2. kusala 3. Kuutadanta Sutta dana, 4. priyavacana, 5. artha cariya ,6. samanatmata, 7. Samyutta Nikayaaryaor, ariyasammutidev 8. Agganna Sutta,9. Majjima Nikaya,10. arya” or “ariy, 11.sammutideva,12. Digha Nikaya,13. Maha Sudassana,14. Dittadhammikatthasamvattanika-
Ambattha Sutta in Digha Nikaya
Digha Nikaya (Mahaparinibbana-sutta
Free Online step by step creation of Virtual tour in 3D Circle-Vision 360° for Kushinara Nibbana Bhumi Pagoda
First need was an image of the Metteyya Awakened One with Awareness.
You can have as many as you like. This will go on the topmost level of
the Pagoda. It is considered ‘bad etiquette’ to place the Matteyya Awakened One with Awareness lower than any other image in the same Pagoda.
In the place of an image of Buddha, a mantra written on a piece of
paper or similar is perfectly acceptable, and preferred in the Jōdo
Shinshū (Pure Land) tradition of Buddhism and in Nichiren Buddhism. Some
buddhist schools recommend certain standardized arrangements of images
for their lay members, in Japan often as triptychs with the main Buddha
surrounded by either bodhisattvas, dharma guardians or lineage masters.
This is not necessary, even after Japanese standards, and
Chinese-Taiwanese Buddhism is usually less standardized when it comes to
Things You’ll Need
Chapter 3 Buddhist Concept of Governance
Buddhist Concept of Governance
Whereas Buddha has been considered to be mostly a philosopher
and an ethical teacher and not preoccupied with political or state-related
issues, in contrast to that, many recent scholars have analysed from, the
historical context of Buddha Gautama’s life that he was both a ‘social
reformer’ and political thinker. Among the scholars mentioned is Ilaiah
The truth lies in the fact that Ancient Indian society had begun to
change when Buddha attained Enlightenment (Pali: maha parinippana).
Historically, that period was known as Vedanta (Skt.: Veda+anta, end of
Vedas). At that time, commerce with other states had begun and there
was a new merchant class in the territory who had expressed interest in
Buddha’s teachings. As reported in our earlier chapters, Buddha
challenged the divine origin concept from a very simple and acceptable
viewpoint: i.e., that the Brahmins like the other varnas had a common
human birth. This would make the Brahmins essentially equal to the
others. Jayasuriya is quick to point out that even in the Buddhist
literature, there was scant mention of political attitudes. Among
exceptional scholars on the subject are Jayatilleke (1967) and Omveldt
Jayasuriya adds that the advent of political attitude was Emperor
Asoka. Asoka’s predecessors maintained a treatment of political
prisoners, which must have shocked Asoka. The Samyutta Nikaya
described the physical condition of King Pasenadi’s prisoners. (Uma
Cakravarti, 1996; p.161-62) The Stone Edicts were an obvious testament
against barbarity (cruelty) towards prisoners, among other things. They
displayed a socio-political attitude based on and advocating non-violence
and compassion. In Chapter Two, we have mentioned some of Asokas’
Debate on Buddha’s preference of state has occurred. As we have
mentioned earlier, evidence exists that Buddha emphasises the
sangha or ‘tribal republic’ such as Vajja. In his fourth sermon to Ananda
bhikku and Vasakara the Chaplain of King Ajatasatru, Buddha mentioned
that tribal unity was a vital criterion for the survival of the state. Most
scholars of Asoka’s dharma accredit it as an ethical code. Beside the
foundation of hospitals, inns and rest homes, arboretums [parks
established for the planting and nurturing of plants and trees] and so on,
Asoka preached social equity and sectarian equality. He declared that he
was impartial to any sect of his time but his edict warned his subjects
against showing prejudice or hatred towards other sects. At the core of his
dhamma, like that of Buddha, was sila or conduct. Even today, it is still
easy “to fall into evil ways” and the highly-placed—i.e., public and
private administrators, etc—especially cannot always behave properly.
(Mahesh Tiwari, 1989; p.159)
Throughout Chapter Three, which follows, the researcher intends
to elucidate the Buddhist concept of governance as fixed at the time of the
dhamma and enlightenment, which was certainly ahead of our time and
modern principles. In so far as the
sangha as a form of
governance displayed “democratic principles” such as freedom of speech,
equal representation of the masses and the solidarity and civility
demanded by Buddha Gautama, it can stand as a precursor of modern
democracy and researcher shall emphasise it in this light. On the opposite
side of the spectrum is the enlightened monarchy of Emperor Asoka.
In the next units of this chapter, the researcher shall analyse the
available data regarding the Buddhist concept of monarch—especially
those of Kosala and Magadha, being the principle and most important
historical monarchies of the time. From that, we shall endeavour to draw
the proper conclusion(s).
3.2 Buddhist Concept of King
Buddha Gautama had been an advocate of the
system, as we mentioned earlier. However, among his many lay followers
were kings, especially of Magadha- e.g., Bimbisara and his heir
Ajatasatru. Monarchical states or kingdoms were conceivably numerous
in Chumpudveepa (Ancient India) and earned considerable reputations
historically. Buddha Gautama was frequently an honoured and invited
guest in their palaces.
Among Buddha’s ideals was that of the ‘ideal monarch’ or
“dhammaraja” who reportedly ruled over his subjects justly and
equitably. (S. Tachibana, 1975; p.264) Dhamma means righteousness and
includes such traits as equity and impartiality. Buddha discredited the
theory of divine origin and knew the basic, common origin of all living
beings barring plants. Therefore, a true, righteous monarch should
understand the equality of his subjects. Seeing the equality of all of his
subjects, a true monarch would rule them impartially. This concept shall
be discussed in the next unit.
Dhammaraja could have been a reaction to the despots who
exercised their control over people in Buddha’s time. Uma Cakravarti
(1996; p.158) speaks of “absolute exercise of power unrestrained by any
institutional controls.” However, the Pali literature of the period
acknowledged the social need for authority to maintain law and order,
referred to as “legitimate basis of kingship.” It has been expounded in the
Agganna Sutta. As with power generally, use of it for legitimate or
arbitrary purposes largely depended on the king—i.e., as he saw fit to
Chakravarti mentions two principle threats to the social order,
which may be still evident today: One is offences against the property and
the other is offences against the family. The subjects expected their
monarch to act effectively against these offences. Evidence of public
demonstration (protest) in Kosala, the domain of King Pasenadi,
mentioned a protest against the ravages of the famed robber Angulimala
(who later met the Buddha and became a bhikku). (Majjima Nikaya 11;
p.346 quoted in Uma Chakravarti, 1996; p.159)
Furthermore, Buddhism holds no concept of aristocracy except in
terms of intellect and morality. (S. Tachibana, 1975; p.264). The
Buddhist “aristocrat” was called “arya” or “ariya.”
On the Buddhist concept of kingship, there exists much
information. Besides describing the king as a public refuge
(patisaranam), Sidhi Budh-Indr reports that the king should possess both
virtue (sila) and wisdom, or intellect (pañña) to understand and
discrtiminate between good and evil statements (Siddhi Butr-Indr, 1995;
p.147) . Whereas many actual monarchs can be compared with thieves,
the ideal monarch is a “lord of men” (manussindo) and can neither equal
nor count as a commoner. His subjects deem him the “god of public
domain” (sammutideva). This is not a real god, as that would demand that
the king should die and ascend to paradise, but rather it is a term of
respect among his subjects. Furthermore, the king is empowered by five
strengths, as follows:
1.Physical strength, or power-agility and muscular strength, as
applied in governance and warfare.
2.Material strength-wealth and material resources.
3.Strength of court officials, providing they are united behind him
and know and perform their respective duties.
4.strength of nobility
5.wisdom or intellect
Budh-Indra mentions the Ten Royal Virtues (rajadhamman), which
we shall explain in detail in a later unit of this chapter. He agrees in
principle with the social contract theory, as far as he reports “Kingship is,
in a sense, founded upon and determined by public opinion.” (Ibid.
p.153), which, in its turn, depends upon righteousness. To this point, he
adds “the nature of kingship is essentially based on the concept of
righteousness (dhamma). The king is supposed to be the agent who
maintains the principle of righteousness in the worldly spheres.” (Ibid. p
155) The Digha Nikaya quotes Buddha Gautama himself as explaining
that a king (raja) ‘charms others by Dhamma or righteousness.’ (S.
Tachibana, 1975;p. 264) Oliver Abeynayake claims that Buddhism
prefers monarchy to republicanism, but the fact simply is that the
monarchies, despite possible despotism and abuses, were stronger than
the ganas. He continues to infer that “Buddhism prescribes a centralized
administration. Buddhism introduced the system of governance under the
Cakravarti king to centralise North India, which was divided into various
small kingdoms.”(Oliver Abeynayake, p.2) He continues to list the
characteristics of an effective ruler, as follow:
2. Economic prosperity.
3. Military strength.
4. Competent advisors.
5. Diplomatic acclaim.
7. Parents’ affection.
8. Patriotism and popularity.
9. Competency and discipline.
10. Education, intelligence and intuition. (Ibid.)
Reputation usually precedes the person and acts as a tool in
attracting others towards him/her; so, we may conceive that a good
reputation, usually created through good actions towards the subjects of
the state, will enable the leader of that state to maintain his rapport with
the subjects. Economic prosperity is the result of sustaining a prosperous
state, since the king receives payment in various forms from his subjects,
such as foodstuff, gold, etc. As we have indicated in the unit on ten
virtues, a good ruler deems the prosperity of his subjects to be his own.
Military strength is the requisite for protecting the country from invasion.
A good king will need a strong and extensive army (sena) to defend his
territory. Competent advisors and diplomatic acclaim is needed in
peaceful and cooperative measures between states. In fact, Abeynayake
has reiterated and emphasized the qualities we have mentioned in earlier
chapters of our thesis.
3.3 The Normative King (cakkavati dhammiko dhammaraja) and
Ideal Administrative Office
To begin, the Pali concept of normative kingship, which we shall
explain in this unit, consists of two distinct but not separate ideals. Both
are ideals of Buddhism and the objectives of a true monarch in the
Buddhist consciousness. The first ideal is cakkavati. Cakkavati is derived
from the Sanksrit word cakra, which means several things: 1) a circle, 2)
a wheel or disk, 3) a centre of energy or power (ayurvedic, tantric and
yogic) and 4) world. “Cakkavati” or cakravartin is a universal monarch, a
world ruler who “would put an end to the petty tyranny of the many and
establish instead a universe where not only a social order but also a moral
order would prevail.” (Uma Cakravarti, 1996; p.164)
Since tyranny would be abolished, the new social order would
likely to be either spontaneous or promoted by righteous leadership, or
both. Petty tyranny mentioned above referred mostly to the historical
monarchs of Buddha’s lifetime.
The second ideal is dhammiko dhammaraja. The dhammaraja is
firstly a protector of his subjects (janapadatthaviriya patto: jana, people;
padattha, protection; viriya, effort) via righteousness and equity, rather
than by force, including military campaign. The dhammaraja or righteous
king is always expected to be just and impartial in the governance of his
people. The Cakavatti or universal monarch will rule his country justly
and impartially (dhammena samena). (S. Tachibana,1975; p.264). Sama
and dhamma are deemed to be synonyms as far as the description of the
ideal monarch is concerned. The subjects of the dhammaraja (will) live in
comparative comfort. Researcher takes exception to the term comparative
comfort because, whereas poverty should be eradicated, excess and
luxury should also be avoided. Comparative comfort is a relative term,
referring to the degree of comfort compared with previous living. E.g.,
when someone has lived in abject poverty throughout his childhood,
comparably, when he has the means to uplift his standards of material
existence, it can be deemed comparative comfort. However, the fact is
that we compare our living with those around us.
Under the rule of the dhammaraja, the subjects should expect to
live comfortably within existing means and limits. Cakravarti supports
this hypothesis by adding “dhammiko dhammaraja thus provides for the
basic needs of the people.” (Ibid, p. 165) Thus, in a general outlook, the
dhammaraja does not only protect the family and property of his subjects.
A fine example of such a king was Maha Sudassana. Maha Sudassana
gave to the needy whatever was truly needed: food to the starved, water
to the thirsty and even a wife to the man who wished to wed. Grants of
money were not the only necessities.
The dhammarājā had the high duty of eradicating poverty. He also
taxes his subjects fairly, whereas his historical counterparts taxed their
subjects unfairly and acted like thieves. This appears to be a subject of
both literature and history. From the Pali canon of Buddhism to the
legend of Robin Hood in Britain, kings were lumped together with the
thieves in their kingdoms.
Another vital characteristic of the dhammaraja was charisma. His
relationship to the subjects was like that to his family: father to sons and
daughters. His charisma compels him to be popular and he is obeyed
without coercion. Since all his subjects like him, no one would overthrow
him. Finally, the dhammaraja supports only the worthy samanas and
brahmanas, and aids them in achieving their goals.
Buddhist tradition placed the Dvaravati kings as cakravartins,
(Rhys Davids, 1899). Rhys Davids quotes that the Universal Emperor
appeared and ruled righteously in the manner of the Buddha. Buddha was
perceived as the foremost Cakkavatti in his style of leadership and others
attempted to follow him. The Buddhist kings were also described as
embarking upon the path of bodhisattva and both saving themselves and
their subjects, which is the action of a bodhisattva, according to
Mahayana Buddhism. Ernst Benz describes it as follows:
‘The Buddhist kings were regarded as the central personages on the
stage, themselves striving to be Bodhisattvas and expected to lead their
subjects on the way to salvation. As Bodhisattvas, they were not only
examples to their subjects, but actually helpful to them. The salvation
chrism of the Bodhisattva consists in using his own salvation to further
the efforts of others to achieve salvation.’ (Ernst Benz, Buddhism or
Communism: Which Holds the Future of Asia?, trans; Richard and Clara
Winston, Great Britain, 1966; p.97)
3.4 Buddhism and Communism
3.4.1 The approach of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
The Buddha is generally associated with the doctrine of Ahimsa.
That is taken to be the be-all and end-all of his teachings. Hardly any one
knows that what the Buddha taught is something very vast: far beyond
Ahimsa. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in his The Buddha and His Dhamma has
analyzed Buddha’s approach to Ahimsa. Here he makes a distinction
between principle and rule. According to him ahimsa in Buddhism is
accepted not as a rule, but as a principle. Rule binds you and takes away
your freedom. Principle does not take away your freedom; you can
choose your course of action in the light of the principle. Secondly the
Buddha did not emphasise just the negative aspect of ahimsa (viz. ‘Don’t
kill’) but he also emphasised the positive aspect in the form of love and
compassion ( Metta and Karuna). But more importantly Buddha’s
primary concern was not himsa or ahimsa, but the problem of human
suffering, suffering which is natural and also the suffering which is
caused by human being. He tried to go the root cause of all sufferings and
find a solution to the problem of suffering. In the last two centuries social
philosopher who has been influential was Karl Marx, who was also
deeply concerned with the problem of suffering, mainly the problem of
poverty, exploitation and alienation.
The Buddha as a social thinker can be regarded as a scientific
thinker rather than utopian thinker. He developed the causal model of
dependent origination (Paticca-samuppada) and applied it to the problem
Hence both Buddha and Mark were concerned with the problem of
suffering; they accepted the ultimate social goal as the society without
suffering and exploitation, where human beings live as equal members of
the society and as free beings. Both of them approached the problem by
applying scientific method rather than following any religious dogma or
utopian ideal. But the conclusions they arrived at were different. This is
because the ways they approached the problem were different. Marx did
not consider the inner roots of the problem of suffering, but only the
external roots. Hence according to him human beings suffer, they are
exploited, they enter into conflicts, because of the contradictions in the
socio-economic structure, that is, the capitalist structure. Hence changing
socio-economic structure through revolution, though it could be a blooly
revolution is the solution of the problem of suffering.
Though the Buddha dealt with the problem of unjust social
structure and establishment of an alternative social structure, when he
thought about the root cause of suffering, he emphasised the inner root of
suffering rather than the external causes or occasioning factors. He spelt
out the internal cause of suffering in two ways. Sometimes he emphased
tanha- craving as the root cause. Because of craving people suffer, they
exploit others and are exploited by others; they enter into conflicts and
wars with others. People can get rid of suffering and experience peace
only by getting rid of craving. He further went into the root of craving
and found that Avijja, ignorance / misconception is the root cause of
craving. We are ignorant about the impermanent, soul-less and
unsatisfactory nature of all phenomena and misconceive them as
permanent, soul-possessing and satisfactory. Because of these
misconceptions we develop attachment and craving about those
phenomena. Hence the path towards cessation of suffering necessarily
involved threefold training (Trisika) viz.(sila), meditation (samadhi) and
wisdom (panna) through which one gets rid of craving and ignorance and
is finally liberated. The Buddha conceived of and executed an alternative
form of social structure – the order of bhikkus which gives institutional
support for developing the threefold training. The order of Bhikkhus had
no place for the caste-system, or exploitation, but followed egalitarian
democratic pattern. On the contrary, Karl Marx maintained that the way
to ideal social system went through revolution (which could be violent
revolution) and what he called dictatorship of proletariat. Sangha order on
the other hand was not imposed on the members but was willingly
accepted by them. Marx maintained that in ideal social structure the
private property will have been abolished. This idea of the absence of
private property was already practiced long back in the Buddhist order of
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in his article “Buddha or Karlmark” has
brought out clearly the contrast between the Marxian approach and the
Buddha’s approach as follows:
Karl Marx is no doubt the father of modern socialism or
Communism but he was not interested merely in propounding the theory
of Socialism. That had been done long before him by others. Marx was
more interested in proving that his Socialism was scientific. His crusade
was as much against the capitalists as it was against those whom he called
the Utopian Socialists. He disliked them both. It is necessary to note this
point because Marx attached the greatest importance to the scientific
character of his Socialism. All the doctrines which Marx propounded had
no other purpose than to establish his contention that his brand of
Socialism was scientific and not Utopian.
The means of bringing about Communism, which the Buddha
propounded, were quite definite. It can be devided into three parts. Part I
consisted in observing the Pancha Silas. The Enlightenment gave birth to
a new gospel, which contains the key to the solution of the problem,
which was haunting him.
The foundation of the New Gospel is the fact that the world was
full of misery and unhappiness. This was the fact that was not merely to
be noted but to be regarded as being the first and foremost in any scheme
of salvation. The recognition of this fact was made by the Buddha, the
starting point of his gospel. To remove this misery and unhappiness was
to him the aim and object of the gospel if it was to serve any useful
purpose. Asking what could be the causes of this misery the Buddha
found that there could be only two.
A part of the misery and unhappiness of man was the result of his
own misconduct. To remove this cause of misery he preached the
practice of Panch Sila.
The Panch Sila comprised the following observations: (1) To
abstain from destroying or causing destruction of any living things (2) To
abstain from stealing i.e. acquiring or keeping by fraud or violence, the
property of another: (3) To Abstain from telling untruth: (4) To abstain
from lust: (5) To abstain from intoxicating drinks.
A part of the misery and unhappiness in the world was according to
the Buddha the result of man’s inequity towards man. How was this
inequity to be removed? For the removal of man’s inequity towards man
the Buddha prescribed the Noble Eight-Fold Path. The elements of the
Noble Fight-Fold Path are:
(1) Right views i.e. freedom from superstition: (2) Right aims, high
and worthy of the intelligent and earnest men; (3) Right speech i.e.
kindly, open, truthful: (4) Right Conduct i.e. peaceful, honest and pure;
(5) Right livelihood i.e. causing hurt or injury to no living being; (6)
Right perseverance in all the other seven; (7) Right mindfulness i.e. with
a watchful and active mind; and (8) Right contemplation i.e. earnest
thought on the deep mysteries of life.
The aim of the Noble Eight-Fold Path is to establish on earth the
kingdom of righteousness, and thereby to banish sorrow and unhappiness
from the face of the world.
The third part of the Gospel is the doctrine of Nibbana. The
doctrine of Nibbana is an integral part of the doctrine of the Noble Eight-
Fold Path. Without Nibbana the realisation of the Eight-Fold Path cannot
The doctrine of Nibbana tells what are the difficulties in the way of
the realisation of the Eight-Fold Path.
The chiefs of these difficulties are ten in number. The Buddha
called them the Ten Asavas, Fetters or Hindrances.
The first hindrance is the delusion of self. So long as a man is
wholly occupied with himself, chasing after every bauble that he vainly
thinks will satisfy the cravings of his heart, there is no noble path for him.
Only when his eyes have been opened to the fact that he is but a tiny part
of a measureless, whole, only when he begins to realise how impermanent
a thing is his temporary individuality can he even enter upon this narrow
The second is Doubt and Indecision. When a man’s eyes are opened
to the great mystery of existence, the impermanence ofevery
individuality, he is likely to be assailed by doubt and indecision as to his
action. To do or not to do, after all my individuality is impermanent, why
do anything are questions, which make him indecisive or inactive. But
that will not do in life. He must make up his mind to follow the teacher,
to accept the truth and to enter on the struggle or he will get no further.
The third is dependence on the efficacy of Rites and Ceremonies.
No good resolutions, however firm will lead to anything unless a man
gets rid of ritualism: of the belief that any outward acts. any priestly
powers, and holy ceremonies, can afford him an assistance of any kind. It
is only when he has overcome this hindrance, that men can be said to
have fairly entered upon the stream and has a chance sooner or later to
win a victory.
‘’ The fourth consists of the bodily passions… The fifth is ill will
towards other individuals. The sixth is the suppression of the desire for a
future life with a material body and the seventh is the desire for a future
life in an immaterial world.
The eighth hindrance is Pride and ninth is self-righteousness. These
are failings which it is most difficult for men to overcome, and to which
superior minds are peculiarly liable contempt for those who are less able
and less holy than themselves.
The tenth hindrance is ignorance. When all other difficulties are
conquered this will even remain, the thorn in the flesh of the wise and
good, the last enemy and the bitterest foe of man.
Nibbana consists in overcoming these hindrances to the pursuit of
the Noble Eight-Fold Path.
The doctrine of the Noble Eight-Fold Path tells what disposition of
the mind which a person should sedulously cultivate. The doctrine of
Nibbana tells of the temptation or hindrance which a person should
earnestly overcome if he wishes to trade along with the Noble Eight-Fold
The Fourth Part of the new Gospel is the doctrine of Paramitas.
The doctrine of Paraimitas inculcates the practice of ten virtues in one’s
These are those ten virtues—d) Panna (2) Sila (3) Nekkhama (4)
Dana(5) Virya(6) Khanti(7) Succa(8) Aditthana(9) Mettaa-nd (10)
Panna or wisdom is the light that removes the darkenss of Avijja,
Moha or Nescience. The Panna requires that one must get all his doubts
removed by questioning those wiser than him self, associate with the wise
and cultivate the different arts and sciences which help to develop the
Sila is moral temperament, the disposition not to do evil and the
disposition to do good; to be ashamed of doing wrong. To avoid doing
evil for fear of punishment is Sila. Sila means fear of doing wrong.
Nekkhama is renunciation of the pleasures of the world. Dana means the
giving of one’s possessions, blood and limbs and even one’s life for the
good of the others without expecting anything in return.
Virya is right endeavour. It is doing with all your might with
thought never turning back, whatever you have undertaken to do.
Khanti is forbearance. Not to meet hatred by harted is the essence
of it. For hatred is not appeased by hatred. It is appeased only by
Succa is truth. An aspirant for Buddha never speaks a lie. His
speech is truth and nothing but truth.
Aditthana is resolute determination to reach the goal. Metta is
fellow feeling extending to all beings, foe and friend, beast and man.
Upekka is detachment as distinguished from indifference. It is a
state of mind where there is neither like nor dislike. Remaining unmoved
by the result and yet engaged in the pursuit of it.
These virtues one must practice to his utmost capacity. That is why
they are called Paramitas (States of Perfection).
Such is the gospel the Buddha enunciated as a result of his
enlightenment to end the sorrow and misery in the world.
It is clear from Dr. Ambedkar’s article “Buddha or Karl Marx”
(W&S, vol.3) how, the means adopted by the Buddha were to convert a
man by changing his moral disposition to follow the path voluntarily. The
means adopted by the Communists are equally clear, short and swift.
They are (1) Violence and (2) Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
The Communists say that there are the only two means of
establishing communism. The first is violence. Nothing short of it will
suffice to break up the existing system. The other is dictatorship of the
proletariat. Nothing short of it will suffice to continue the new system.
It is now clear what are the similarities and differences between
Buddha and Karl Marx. The differences are about the means. The end is
common to both. (Buddha or Karl Marx”, (W&S vol. 3 p. 450)
3.4.2 Bhikku Buddhadasa’s approach
Another Buddhist response to Marxism can be seem in Bhikkhu
Buddhadasa, a contemporary Thai Buddhist thinker, who proposed his
social theory of dhammic socialism out of an Asian way of thinking,
within an Asian context. Since Thailand has never been colonized by a
Western power, Buddhist socialism can be interpreted as a struggle for
economic and cultural independence. Bhikkhu Buddhadasa, a
contemporary Thai Buddhist thinker, has interpreted Buddhism not only
from a religious point of view of his unique theory of Buddhist socialism
or “dhammic socialism” but also from a sociopolitical perspective. After
devoting most of his life to reforming Buddhism in Thailand, Buddhadasa
found it necessary to address sociopolitical issues from a Buddhist
perspective. In the 1960’s, he articulated his sociopolitical position in
terms of “dhammocracy” (dhammathipatai): the social and political order
should follow the law of Dhamma the teachings of the Buddha. Later on,
in the atmosphere of the student led Revolution in Thailand from 1973 to
1976, Buddhadasa presented (dhammika sangkhomniyom). Buddhadasa
bases his theory of dhammic socialism on nature. To him, nature
represents the state of balance for the survival and wellbeing of human
beings, animals, plants, and the ecology of the world. In the state of
nature, every being produces according to its capacity and consumes
according to its needs; no being, whatever form, hoards “surplus” for its
own sake. Buddhadasa calls this balanced state of nature socialistic.
Problems arise, however, when human beings begin to hoard a “surplus”
for the sake of their own profit; this leaves others facing scarcity and
poverty. According to Buddhadasa, human beings can and should
produce a “surplus,” but the “surplus” should be distributed for the
wellbeing of everyone, and Buddhism provides the ethical tools for this
fair distribution. Philosophically, dhammic socialism is based on this
principle: none of us should take more than we really need. We should
share whatever extra we have with those who have less. Social problems
are fundamentally a result of greed. In other words, greed is at the heart
of scarcity and poverty (Buddhadasa, Dhammic Socialism, 107).
Buddhadasa’s individualistic approach to social and economic problems
is implemented via the personal practices of generosity (dana) and self-
restraint, which consists of keeping precepts (sila) and being self
disciplined the global market economy.
In a later unit in this chapter, we shall explain more on that
concept. According to Buddhist tradition, a good ruler has ten virtues,
enumerated in the next unit.
3.5 Dasa Rajadhamman or Ten Royal Virtues
Buddhism is more than a religion or a life philosophy; it is a way of
life. It is broad in scope and perceptive of the lives of others. Henceforth,
Buddha Gautama taught the eradication of poverty and internal security
of a kingdom as well as other social virtues. Towards the eradication of
crime in a country, a leader should eliminate poverty. Although there
were perhaps not the same strata of employment then that we have today,
Buddha urged employers and national leaders to improve relations with
employees through the means of wage and incentives, and occasional
gifts. Furthermore, kings and governments should consider the happiness
of their people seriously. In respect of good monarchy, there is the dasa
raja dhamma, which follow:
According to Buddhadhamma, or Buddhasatsana, a true, good
monarch is or should be endowed with the following ten virtues.
1. As it is incumbent of the monarch to ensure the welfare and
prosperity of his people, the first of these virtues is dana or charity. Dana
comes from the Sanskrit root dan, to give, which also founded the Latin
word don- as in donor (giver) and donation. In Buddhism, dana includes
generosity and reward. It is incumbent for a good leader to give freely
from his resources to anyone who needs anything. Maha Sudassana gave
whatever the needy person demanded at the time. This entails an accurate
assessment of the person’s condiition: ‘This man is hungry’ etc. and the
2. The second virtue, very typically, was sila or morality. The raja
is himself a lay follower and lay followers were expected to follow only
five principles of moral conduct, whereas the bhikkus had many more.
The five principles, unlike their counterparts in other world religions,
were not rigidly enforced. This may have been due to Buddha’s
understanding of human weakness. These principles included the aversion
to kill meaninglessly, barring a war in the cause of national defence.
(Buddha taught ahimsa, or non-violence, but understood that war in self-
defense was hard to avoid for any nation.) The other precepts included
aversion to adultery (as it provokes rage and jealousy, and disharmony
among subjects), aversion to the use of harmful and improper speech such
as lies, slander, rumours and gossiping and aversion to intoxicating things
Buddha continued to advise the following eight virtues:
3. pariccaga (self-sacrifice for common good): Sidhhi Butr-Indr
(1995; p.150) claims that this included the sacrifice of life and limbs on
behalf of the people, which is a very grand and noble gesture for anyone
and therefore very scarce. It arises from the belief that the happiness of
others causes oneself to feel happy, which is true.
4. ajjava (honesty): this virtue encompasses sincerity and freedom
from fear (bhayamokka) while discharging royal duties. It is very
conceivable that any honest man or woman, regardless of birthright,
should have no cause to fear so long as his/her activity is honest and
sincere. Thus, a king who lives honestly and sincerely need not fear any
loss to himself; or his family. Additionally, a king is recommended to be
straightforward and avoid deceptive or ‘crooked’ recourse towards his
ends. To highlight this, the Sigalovada Sutta, Digha Nikaya, adds:
“Canda dosa bhaya moha—yo dhammam nativattati. Apurati tassa
yaso—Sukkha pakheva candima”. (If a person maintains justice without
being subjected to favouritism, hatred, fear or ignorance, his popularity
grows like the waxing moon.)
5. maddava (gentleness) includes politeness and friendliness.
Buddha apparently intended this as a tool in addressing the subjects. As
he must have known well that common men prefer to listen to kind,
6. tapa (austerity) is generally a quality of ascetics and therefore
uncommon in men of high birth and status in society. It requires the
monarch to simplify his ways of life, which seemed rare in those days as
well as in the present. The scriptures had mentioned reports of kings who
abused wealth and power and were ‘lumped together’ with the thieves
from whom they were expected to protect their subjects.
7. akkodha is good will. It is also translated as ‘non-hatred.’ Thus,
a ruler should not bear any grudge against anyone. Furthermore, he
should act with love and forbearance.
8. ahimsa (non-violence): Buddha taught non-violence even in the
case of war, although he was well aware that war was difficult to avoid.
As we have mentioned, he sanctioned war only when it was fought for the
preservation of the state and could avoid killing. He included the
promotion of peace through non-violent action, which is truly the only
way to peace. This virtue was best epitomised in Emperor Asoka.
9. khanti, or patience. The ruler is herein urged to bear all
hardships without losing his temper and should avoid yielding to his
emotions. In fact, Buddhists are generally advised to be thoughtful rather
than giving way to emotions, but a king or ruler should avoid this as well.
10. avirodha (non-opposition to the public demand) This includes a
commitment to public welfare and is a good twin to pariccaga. As a good
monarch will first deem the welfare and happiness of the people as his
own and then undertake to promote it. (Rahula, What the Buddha Taught
Butr-Intr (Ibid. p.151) discusses the nature of a good king along
these lines, and historically there were god examples such as Maha
Sudassana and Asoka. Maha Sudassana practiced dana in the manner
described; Asoka practiced dana, sila and ahimsa and originated many
institutions in his kingdom to promote the public welfare. He stands as
one of the best examples of a monarch in early history. However, while
the leader who possesses all of thee virtues is loved well, he is very rare.
Some kings or leaders have possessed only a few virtues and others have
abused wealth and power for self-interest.
In modern day, with many countries assuming a democratic stance,
a few of them maintain monarchical influences. In Asia, these are
principally Nepal, Bhutan and Thailand. Nepal has deposed its monarchs
for criminal offences concerning ascension. Bhutan has remained a model
monarchical state, as Robert Thurman averred recently.
Thurman refers to the interesting paradox that Nagarjuna points
out, that it’s very likely that a good and strong executive is an essential
thing to maintain the interest of individuals in a society. So there is an
interesting paradox that you need a strong central leader to guarantee the
rights of the people and therefore the idea of a constitutional monarchy is
pretty close to a Buddhist ideal. (Retrieved from http://www.kuensel
online.com/ on 22 March 2009. Date of Citation: 27 November 2007)
Speaking more precisely on the duty and nature of the dhammaraja,
Thurman pointed that a true Buddhist king should attain to the state of
bodhisattva and serve his people. Asoka tried in his lifetime to attain that
end and we shall discuss him in the next unit. Below are Thurman’s
words on the king:
Buddhism has a very interesting paradox and that is, yes, it’s very
important to be a bodhisattva and serve the people, but you can’t really
serve people well until you have wisdom, compassion and certain
qualities of an enlightened person. That’s the first thing of a Buddhist
King, the first duty is to himself, to develop full potential as a human
being. That’s the first principle.
The second principle is Non-Violence. This is very difficult for a
ruler or a King, because there are some criminals and they have to be
punished or there are some threats to the nation and it has to be taken care
of, so it may seem a little tough.
But Nagarjuna ruled out capital punishment. Even criminals should
not be killed, but you might kill someone if they try to harm your family,
but generally you try to correct criminals and educate them. The analysis
of self-defense is kind of tricky in Buddhism, you can’t necessarily be
perfect but you tend towards the principle of non-violence.
The third principle is difficult to explain in English because there is
no real word for it but I call it Educationalism. What this means is that the
primary industry of a Buddhist society is education of its citizens
because, for any human being, the most important thing they can do is to
learn. Buddhism is very different from any other religions because
Buddhism does not teach that you can achieve nirvana just by faith, faith
is not sufficient to be free from suffering. (Ibid.)
3.6 Buddhism and the Social Life
Buddhism has been an integral part of the life of Buddhists for it is
the root of culture and way of life of the people. In order to appreciate the
importance, role and influence of Buddhism on the way of life of the
Buddhist populace, it is necessary to understand other structures or
fabrics, which are integral parts of Buddhism. Important components are
the Buddha (Somdej Phra Nyanasamvara 2000, pp.6-7), the Dhamma,
the Sangha and the Wat (monastery) and lay disciples. The Dhamma or
the teachings of the Buddha has been most influential on the way of life
of Buddhists. The teachings are found not only in the Pali Canon and
Suttapitaka but also in such religious literatures as the Jataka, Buddhist
chronicles and myths. The Dhamma component is an abstract aspect and
serves as the heart of Buddhism. The Sangha or the community of monks
and the Wat are in close relation and proximity with the laymen and
interact with society in its daily life.
The close association and continuous relationship between
Buddhism and society is based on the concept that a society is a
conglomeration of tangible compositions and such abstract elements as
virtue, value, goodness, morality and ethics. There are continuous
interactions between the tangible and intangible components. In order to
maintain the society functionally and structurally, there must be an
interdependent and supportive relationship of different compositions of
Buddhism. Lacking any of them would cause imbalance in society. In a
village community, for example, not having a monastery and monks to
edify and guide the people would result in the low morality and spirit of
the inhabitants. Similarly, if the monks in the community do not strictly
adhere to the Dhamma and keep to their duties according to the code of
discipline (Vinaya), the people’s morality and spirit would become lax,
the community’s social relationships would also be weakened, unstable
and not in peace. Social relationships are not always in harmony.
Conflicts may arise from time to time. Resolution to such conflicts may
be achieved by means of adjustment and adaptation of the existing social
structure and function in order to maintain the society. Alternatively,
there might be a replacement of the structure and function of the old
society by a new one.
Interaction and the independent relationship of the Sangha and lay
society is another aspect of the relationship between society and religion.
The Sangha is the most important and traditional Buddhist institution,
which is in close association with the people. It plays an essential role,
both religious and secular, in the life of the people. It provides spiritual
sanctuary and serves as a field of merit for the people when they need
spiritual comfort. In the secular sphere, the monks render services to rural
and remote communities. The monks help in teaching the children,
healing the sick by traditional methods, and leading the villagers in
various development efforts. Reciprocally, the lay community provides
the monks with necessities for their living so that they need not worry
about earning their living. Such an interdependent and reciprocal
relationship contributes to a situation in which each party has to be
flexible and adaptable to changes. An accommodating and adaptive
ability is an indispensable quality of the structure within a society, which
make possible the maintenance of the society. The maintenance of the
structure and the regulation of social order are structurally and
functionally defined. It is a situation in which every component of the
society is interdependent, interacting and contributing to the system
maintenance. Generally speaking, there are a variety of components in a
society. The important ones are an economic structure, a political
structure and a belief system meaningful to people’s lives and thoughts.
The major element in this belief system is a religious structure.
3.7 Buddhist dharma and Society
The teachings of the Buddha are voluminous and classified into
groups. Each group serves a specific purpose. It explains an existing
phenomenon, its cause of arising and the effects thereof. There are also
prescriptions to overcome individual problems. The level of depth and
sophistication of the teachings are also purposely prescribed to suit
individual needs. Due to the differences in context and level of
sophistication of the teachings, there arise differences in interpretation of
the teachings. This concerns one’s perception and experiences,
occupation and education. Some political scientists may understand the
Buddhist concept Santosa (satisfaction with whatever is one’s own) as
not conducive to development. In contrast, conservationalists and
environmentalists would see the meaning of Santosa as contentment with
the maintenance of the existing status and conditions, which is supportive
to environmental conservation. Students of Buddhist Studies would view
such interpretations as not comprehensive. This signifies different levels
of understanding of the teachings of the Buddha by the Buddhists.
According to Robert Redfield’s concept of ‘Great and Little Tradition’,
people’s appreciation of Buddhism can be divided into two broad
categories, doctrinal and popular Buddhism. (Robert Redfield 1965,
Firstly, doctrinal Buddhism refers to the teachings of the Buddha
and practices contained in the Canon Sutta and related literatures.
Doctrinal Buddhism is thus believed to be original. Its followers will
refuse principles, teachings and practices, which are not contained in the
Canon and Suttapitaka. They view belief in spirits, deities, and other
forms of Animism including beliefs and practices adopted from other
faiths, as heresy. The followers of doctrinal Buddhism are few in number
but are well educated.
Secondly, popular Buddhism refers to a Buddhism which is
permeated by other religions and belief systems. It includes Animism,
Brahmanism, and beliefs in spirits and ghosts. The teachings and
practices of Buddhism and other belief systems are so interwoven that
only the well educated among the faithful can distinguish Buddhism from
Religious rites, an important structure and function of a religion
can differentiate between the intricacy of doctrinal and popular
Buddhism. The followers of popular Buddhism tend to rank ritual very
high. Their rituals are a combination of Buddhistic, Animistic and
Brahmanical elements. A wedding ceremony, for example, begins with
Buddhist merit making such as giving alms to the monks in the morning.
Late morning ritual involves the offering of sacrifices to the spirit house
and to the ancestors. In the evening Brahmanism is invoked to bless the
bride and the groom. The holiest part of the evening ritual is the pouring
of lustral water on the hands of the couple with blessings from the senior
guests. On the contrary, the followers of doctrinal Buddhism are more
concerned with Buddhist ritual and play down the non-Buddhistic ones.
The great majority of Buddhists in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia
follow popular Buddhism. This phenomenon can be explained in the
context of the belief system at every level of society. Amongst the most
primitive, there exists a belief system that human beings can hold on to.
Such a belief system may be Animism in various forms, including beliefs
regarding natural happenings. Certain communities have embraced an
established religion such as Brahmanism, which was well rooted in India
and propagated all over the world, and Taoism or Confucianism, which
spread from China. By the time that Buddhism was introduced to
Southeast Asia, there already existed belief systems and religious among
the people. When they accepted Buddhism they also kept their old beliefs.
Due to its flexible and liberalism, Buddhism easily absorbed certain
elements of existing belief systems into its mainstream. What developed
from this process is popular Buddhism.
The teachings of the Buddha display variety in its levels of
sophistication, purposes, content, and specialties. For example, the Four
Noble Truths explain natural phenomena, which will be with everyone
from birth to death. It describes the nature of suffering represented by
birth, old age, disease and death, including sorrow and frustration of
every kind; the origin of problems and suffering by way of causality; the
extinction of suffering; and the path leading to the extinction of suffering.
There are teachings that guide the people to live comfortably without
economic hardship. This teaching is called
Dittadhammikatthasamvattanika-dhamma (virtues conducive to benenfits
in the present).
It teaches the laymen to have energy; industry and watchfulness
concerning their properties; to associate with good people; and to live
economically. The Buddha also encouraged people to follow the path to
success. This appears in a particular teaching called Iddhipada (basis for
success). However, the over all purpose of the teachings of the Buddha
can be summarized in the following:
Firstly, it enlightens the laymen about the nature of life from birth
and existence to death. This includes an explanation of the origin of life,
existence after birth and survival until death. The teachings also deal with
ways to lead one’s life happily, in harmony with nature and how to
minimize and cope with suffering arising from sickness, death,
disappointment, separation and other misfortunes.
Secondly, it explains and prescribes ways for people to live
together mutually on a one to one level, as well as on national and global
levels. The teachings, to achieve this purpose, deals with the prescriptions
for social relationships between individuals, social relations within the
family, social relationships between family and family, between teacher
and students, between employer and employees, between religious
personnel and laymen, between government and subjects and between
state and state.
Thirdly, it gives guidance on the application of the teachings of the
Buddha to improve the daily life. The prescriptions are designed to be
workable according to the nature of problems and the level of
appreciation of the individual needs. Therefore, there are levels in the
teachings of the Buddha, i.e., basic truth, middle and sophisticated truth,
both in mundane and supramundane states (Lokiyadhamma and
The dissemination of the teachings of the Buddha to people at
different levels of appreciation requires specialized methods to suit each
group. So as to preach Dhamma to intellectuals and educated people who
are keen on Buddhism and who want to apply Dhamma to improve their
lives, sophisticated Dhamma must be selected. The Dhamma for the
followers of popular Buddhism, on the contrary, has to be simplified and
easy to understand. Simplified Laws8 of Kamma and stories from the
Jataka and Sutta are an effective means to edify them. However, Phra
Rajavoramuni points out that whatever the teaching methods are, all
teachings are related, for the essence of the teachings derives from the
same truth and the ultimate purpose is identical. In fact, these teachings
are identical in purpose but given different labels. The truth is
disseminated selectively and in different forms.
3.8 Buddhism: The Socio-political Changes and the Social Order
The principle of ever-changing nature or the impermanent
condition of the society is a very important to consider when one studies
the relationship between Buddhism and society. It is argued that at the
time when the Gotama was seeking enlightenment there had been rapid
socio-political changes in the homeland of Buddhism, i.e., present
Northern India (Phra Rajavoramuni 1983, pp.11-12). The Buddha
considered that the ever-changing or impermanent conditions were causes
of suffering and societal problems. He therefore devoted himself to the
search for truth to remedy human suffering. The suffering and problems,
which the Buddha perceived, were: (1) natural changes in human beings
and (2) changes caused by man.
Firstly, natural changes in human beings, these were the causes of
suffering inherent in human beings, for example, birth, sickness, death,
happiness, suffering, satisfaction, disappointment, etc. Though they are
the natural phenomena, yet they can cause suffering to people. The
Buddha believed that there must be a remedy to end or at least to
minimize those causes of suffering. Thus, he set forth in search of the
truth. Secondly, changes caused by man, includes: (1) political changes
and (2) socio-economic changes.
Firstly, political changes during the lifetime of the Buddha and the
political environment could be characterized as pertaining to two major
forms of government. The first one was absolute monarchy. The other
was a system based on co-operation between the ruling elites of small
principalities within the states. This form of government is said to be
equivalent to a loosely structured republican system and the mode of
government was democratic. The absolute monarchy form of government
had been adopted by the four northern states of India and they proved to
be very politically strong and stable. Among these states, two of them had
adopted democratic procedures in their government. Legislation, policy
making, and judicial processes were based on consultation in the
assembly of the assigned ruling elite. Majority opinion was adopted to
arrive at final decisions and resolutions. However, the democratic form of
government was gradually weakened by the stronger authoritarian
governments and finally became absorbed by the absolute monarchical
Secondly, it is the socio-economic changes. The expansion of the
absolute monarchical states contributed to the expansion of trade. The
growth of trade generated the bourgeois and capitalist classes. Those who
were economically strong became politically influential and dominated
the government (Phra Rajavoramuni 1982 pp.21-22).
The characteristics and nature of socio-political and economic
changes became integral parts of the teachings of the Buddha. Since the
Buddha gave heavy importance to the forces of socio-political and
economic change, this contributed to Buddhist ability to adjust to changes
without losing its essence.
In the context of socio-political changes, Buddhism has played a
very important role in regulating and organizing society for the survival
and continuity of the society. These functions can be summarized as
A. Socialization function. In Buddhist societies, culture, values and
customs are deeply rooted in Buddhism. Although there are normative
and substantive socializing agents, the monks and monasteries are another
important socializing institution. They have served as ethical and moral
socializing agents. They persuade the people to follow social rules and
regulations and to lead their lives according to the Buddhist way of life.
Such virtues as loving and kindness (Metta-Karuna), kind-heartedness,
being helpful to each other, courtesy and social relationships between
persons of different status constitute this way of life.
B. Social control function. Social control is indispensable for
human society. In order to keep society in order and its members
behaving correctly, so as to maintain peace and order, there must be laws
and regulations governing the society. It is necessary to have an
authoritative body, i.e., a government to enact and enforce such secular
laws and regulations. In addition there are also traditions and customary
laws that enhance the social control of any society.
However, those secular social control mechanisms are aimed at
regulating men’s activities and overt behavior. They will be effective only
when men feel morally obligated to follow the laws and regulations.
Religion can play a very important role in instilling in the people a sense
of morality and edifying them. The monks and monasteries are essential
religious socializing agents that train Buddhists to be good citizens.
Buddhist principles, which function as a social control mechanism, are,
for example, the Five Precepts, Brahmavihàra (sublime states of mind),
Sangahavatthu (virtues making for group integration and leadership and
principle of services), Nathakaranadhamma (virtues which make for
protection), Saraniyadhamma (virtues for fraternal living), Adhipateyya
(dominant influence, supremacy, Dithadhammikattha (sources of
happiness in the present life), etc. People, who are trained, edified, and
keep to the teachings of the Buddha will have shared norms and follow a
common way of life. Such a society will face minimal conflicts, people
will live together with reason and social problems are minimized.
C. Buddhism serves as a unifying force for the society. The fact
that the faithful follow the teaching of the Buddha, and adopt Dhamma as
guidance in their life, reinforces national integration and solidarity. Good
racial integration and a healthy religion enhance national security. In
addition to the teachings of the Buddha, religious rituals and calendar
festivals foster the unity of the people.
3.9 The Characteristics of the Rulers
Plato’s definition of philosopher king refer to one who is going to
seek the truth; And truth can only be won by knowledge and wisdom. The
best government for him is the one, which has a philosopher king in
power. The other virtue, which is stressed by Plato, is justice. He says that
justice is the whole duty of man. He further explains that it is justice went
each class does its own proper work. In each of us also, if our inward
faculties do severally their roper work, we will live in the virtue of
justice; we will do just men, and doers of proper work.
Aristotle (born 884 B.C.) wrote how the powers of government
should be expressed. According to him, the government would be good if
it worked in the interest of the community as a whole. And on the
contrary it would be bad if it worked for the governing body and for
selfish purposes. Aristotle focused on the practitioner of government who,
by his power, would make the common good, good of life for all.
He mentions that political justice exists among people who are
associated in a common life with a view to self-sufficiency and who
enjoy freedom and equality. Justice must be administered not merely for a
private group but for the whole world. Aristotle explains that government
will be best if it serves the common good for the people. The political
thinkers emphasize the moral virtues of the ruler who should do justice to
all and bring good to all, a government working for the public good.
(Macilwain, 1932, pp.83-85)
The basis of religion is morality and faith, while that for politics is
power. Religion was used to justify wars and conquest, persecutions,
atrocities, rebellions, destruction of works of art and culture. When
religion is used to pander to political whims, it has to forego its high
moral ideals and become debased by worldly political demands.
The thrust of the Buddha Dhamma is not directed to the creation of
new political institutions and establishing political arrangements.
Basically, it seeks to approach the problems of society by reforming the
individuals constituting that society and suggesting some general
principles, through which the society can be guided towards greater
humanism, improved welfare of its members, and more equitable sharing
There is a limit to the extent to which a political system can
safeguard the happiness and prosperity of its people. No political system,
no matter how ideal it may appear to be, can bring about peace and
happiness as long as the no matter what political system is adopted, there
are certain universal factors which the members of that society will have
to experience: the effects of good and bad kamma, the lack of real
satisfaction or everlasting happiness in the world characterized by dukkha
(unsatisfactoriness), anicca (impermanence), and anatta (egolessness). To
the Buddhist, nowhere in Samsara is there real freedom, not even in the
heavens or the world of Brahmas.
Although a good and just political system which guarantees basic
human rights and contains checks and balances to the use of power is an
important condition for a happy life in society, people should mot fritter
away their time by endlessly searching for the ultimate political system
where men can be completely free, because complete freedom cannot be
found in any system but only in minds which are free.
To be free, people will have to look within their own minds and
work towards freeing themselves from the chains of ignorance and
craving. Freedom in the truest sense is only possible when a person use
Dhamma to develop his character through good speech and action and to
train his mind so as to expand his mental potential and achieve his
ultimate aim of enlightenment.
While recognizing the use fullness of separating religion from
politics and the limitations of political systems in bringing about peace
and happiness, there are several aspects of the Buddha’s teaching, which
have close correspondence to the political arrangements of the present
1) Firstly, the Buddha spoke about the equality of all human beings
long before Abraham Lincoln, and the classes and castes are artificial
barriers erected by society. According to the Buddha, the only
classification of human beings is based on the quality of their moral
2) Secondly, the Buddha encouraged the spirit of social co-
operation and active participation in society. This spirit is actively
promoted in the political in the political process of modern societies.
3) Thirdly, since no one was appointed as the Buddha’s successor,
the members of the Order were to be guided by the Dhamma and Vinaya,
or in short, the Rule of Law. Until today every member of the Sangha is
to abide by the Rule of Law, which governs and guides their conduct.
4) Fourthly, the Buddha encouraged the spirit of consultation and
the democratic process. This is shown within the community of the Order
in which all members have the right to decide on matters of general
concern. When a serious question arose demanding attention, the issues
were put before the monks and discussed in a manner similar to the
democratic parliamentary system used today.
This self-governing procedure may come as a surprise to many to
learn that in the assemblies of Buddhists in India 2,500 years ago and
more are to be found the rudiments of the parliamentary practice of the
present day. A special officer similar to “Mr. Speaker” was appointed to
preserve the dignity of the assembly.
A second officer, who played a role similar to the Parliamentary
Chief Whip, was also appointed to see if the quorum was secured.
Matters were put forward in the form of a motion, which was open to
discussion. In some cases it was done once, in others three times, thus
anticipating the practice of Parliament in requiring that a bill should be
read a third time before it becomes law. If the discussion shows a
difference of opinion, it was to be settled by the vote of the majority
The Buddhist approach to political power is the moralization and
the responsible use of public power. The Buddha preached non-violence
and peace as a universal message. He did not approve of violence or the
destruction of life, and declared that there is no such thing as a “just” war.
He taught: ‘The victor breeds hatred, the defeated lives in misery. He who
renounces both victory and defeat is happy and peaceful. Not only did the
Buddha teach non-violence and peace, but also he was perhaps the first
and only religious teacher who went to the battlefield personally to
prevent the outbreak of a war. He diffused tension between the Sakyas
and Koliyas who were about to wage war over the waters of Rohine. He
also dissuaded king Ajātaśatru from attacking the Kingfom of the vajjis.
The Buddha discussed the importance and the prerequisites of a
good government. He showed how the country could become corrupt,
degenerate and unhappy when the head of the government becomes
corrupt and unjust. He spoke against corruption and how a government
should act on humanitarian principles. The Buddha once said, “When the
ruler of a country is just and good, the ministers become just and good;
when the ministers are just and good, the higher officials become just and
good; when the higher officials are just and good, the rank and file
become just and good; when the rank and file become just and good, the
people become just and good.”
In the Cakkamatti Sihananda Sutta, the Buddha said that
immorality and crime, such as theft, falsehood, violence, hatred, cruelty,
could arise from poverty. Kings and government may try to suppress
crime through punishment, but it is futile to eradicate crimes through
In the Kutadanta Sutta, the Buddha suggested economic
development instead of force to reduce crime. The government should use
the country’s resources to improve the economic conditions of the
country. It could embark on agricultural and rural development, provide
financial support to entrepreneurs and business, and provide adequate
wages for workers to maintain a decent life with human dignity.
In the Milinda Panha, it is stated: ‘If a man, who is unfit,
incompetent, immoral, improper, unable and unable and unworthy of
kingship, has enthroned himself a king or a ruler with great authority, he
is subject to be tortured…to be subject to a variety of punishment by the
people, because, being unfit and unworthy, he has placed himself
unrighteously in the seat of sovereignty. The ruler, like others who violate
and transgress moral codes and basic rules of all social laws of mankind,
is equally subject to punishment; and moreover, to be censure is the ruler
who conducts himself as a robber of the public.’
In Jantaka story, it is mentioned that a ruler who punishes innocent
people and does not punish the culprit is not suitable to rule a country.
The king always improves himself and carefully examines his own
conduct in deed, words and thoughts, trying to discover and listen to
public opinion as to whether or been guilty of any faults and mistakes in
ruling the that they are ruined by the wicked ruler with unjust treatment,
punishment, taxation, or other oppressions including corruption of any
kind, and they will react against him un one way or another. On the
contrary, if he rules righteously they will bless him: ‘Long live His
The Buddha’s emphasis is on the moral duty of a ruler to use
public power to improve the welfare of the people had inspired Emperor
Asoka, a sparkling example of this principle, resolved to live and preach
the Dhamma and to serve his subjects and all humanity accordingly. He
declared his non-aggressive intentions to his neighbours, assuring them of
his goodwill and sending envoys to distant kings bearing his message of
peace and non-aggression.
He promoted the energetic practice of the socio-moral virtues of
honesty, truthfulness, compassion, benevolence, non-violence,
considerate behaviour towards all, non-extravagance, non-
acquisitiveness, and non-injury to animals. He encouraged religious
freedom and mutual respect for each other’s creed. He went on to
periodic tours preaching the Dhamma to the rural people. He undertook
works of public utility, such as founding of hospitals for man beings and
animals, supplying of medicine, plantation of the roadside trees and
groves, digging of wells, and construction of watering sheds and rest
houses. He expressly forbade cruelty to animals.
Sometimes the Buddha is said to be a social reformer. Among other
things, he condemned the caste system, recognized the equality of people,
spoke on the need to improve socio-economic conditions, recognized the
importance of n more equitable distribution of wealth among the rich and
the poor, raised the status of women, recommended the incorporation of
humanism in government and administration, and taught that a society
should not be run by greed but with consideration and compassion for the
people. despite all of these, his contribution to mankind is much greater
because he took off at a point which no other social reformer before or
ever since had done, that is, by going to the deepest roots of human ill
which are found in human mind.
It is only in the human mind that true reform can be affected.
Reforms imposed by force upon the external world have a very short life
because they have no roots. Not those reforms, which spring as a result of
the transformation of man’s inner consciousness, remain rooted. While
their braches spread outwards, they draw their nourishment from and
unfailing source the subconscious imperatives of the life- stream itself. So
reforms come about when men’s minds have prepared the way for them,
and they live as long as men revitalize them out of their own love of truth,
justice and their fellow men. (K.Shi Dhammananda, 1993, pp.231-236)
Kingship is generally regarded as a result of meritorious actions
performed in the past births. The pali texts generally insist that a king be
khattiya and belong to a family with a hoary lineage. This is in keeping
with the early Buddhist view that the Khattiyas are the highest among
classes and castes. Nor is a woman favoured as a ruler. Of course this can
be taken as the observation of the Buddhists of the contemporary
situation. This cannot be regarded as the general rule or even the main
emphasis of Buddhism. What is more important for Buddhism, is that a
good king is expected to have ten qualities such as charity, morality, and
spirit of sacrifice, justice, humility, penitence, absence of wrath, absence
of violence, patience and harmlessness. A good king, however, should do
more than merely possess certain qualities. He should sub-serve two
traditions namely those of attha and Dhamma. The terms attha and
Dhamma may be rendered, in our present context, as actions conducive to
prosperity and righteousness.
Owing to the fact that a leader is the most important and powerful
person. He, therefore, should know the price of leadership: emulation and
envy. A leader is envied. High and powerful positions are fervently
sought out for all the promise they hold. And what can be more alluring
than the highest post in the land?
To be good leader should be undaunted to emulation and envy
which are around us. In this case, the researcher agrees with S. Leelavathi
the famous columnist who in the column “The Speaking Tree” (Times of
India, Monday, May 31, 2004), mentioned the price of leadership by
saying, “Now that the “crown of thorns” has been placed on a leader’s
head, it is instructive to look at what leadership means, both for the leader
and the led. True, the lead of any huge corporation or country will have
almost boundless resourced at his word shall be law. And sycophants
there will be aplenty. However, it is also true that no leader can be free of
the baggage of leadership.”
In every field of human endeavour; first he must perpetually live in
the white light of publicity. Whether the leadership should be vested in a
man or in a manufactured product, emulation and envy are ever at work
in the art, in literature, in music, in industry, the reward and the
punishment are always the same. The reward is widespread recognition;
the punishment, fierce denial and detraction.
When a man’s work becomes a standard for the whole world, it
also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few. Should his work
be merely mediocre, he will be left severely alone; if he achieves a
masterpiece, it will set a million tongues wagging. Jealousy does not
protrude its forked tongue at the artist who produced a commonplace
Whatsoever you write, paint, play, sing or build, no one will strive
to surpass, or to slander you. Unless your work be stamped with the seal
of genius. Long, long after a great work or a good work has been done;
those who are disappointed or envious continue to cry out that it cannot
It is as old as the world and as old as human passions namely;
envy, fear, greed, ambition and the desire to surpass. And it all avails
nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains the leader.
In conclusion we may say that the ruler is considered as the center
of the society. Everybody has to follow him as the leader. He is the model
for common people and the virtues to be developed by the ruler and his
subordinates to be the good model of people. The staff and all officials of
the ruler should be men of wisdom and virtue. The economic glory and
prosperity and spiritual peace of the people and the state should be taken
care of strictly by the ruler. It is supposed to be the symbol of the well-
being of the people.
The qualities of life both of body and mind, both of the ruler and
the ruled, should be developed simultaneously. Happiness, peace security,
and confidence of the people will thus be widely spread. A good ruler is
beloved and popular among the domestic as well as the monastic
inhabitants: just as a father is near and dear to his children, even so is the
ruler beloved and regarded by the ruled; and just as the children are near
and dare to their father, even so are the ruled to a ruler. He instructs the
public in the threefold practice of well-doing in thought, word and deed
and encourages them to perform charitable deeds, to observe morality, to
engage themselves energetically in their occupation to educate
themselves, to gain wealth, to fulfill their respective duties.
A good ruler sets his whole heart upon promoting the welfare of his
people and makes righteousness the sole purpose of his actions. Being
devoted to the happiness and well-being of his subjects, he appears like
righteousness personified. As the embodiment of righteousness and the
promoter of what is good for his subjects, he realizes their welfare to be
the fruit of righteousness and knows no other purpose than this. A ruler,
therefore, must have righteousness to lead his country and his people to
peace and happiness. ( Khongchinda Chanya,1993 pp.96-7)
3.10 Social Justice in Buddhism
A virtue needed by all beings, both human and animal, justice is the
result of men’s treatment to their fellow human beings, other beings or
even their natural surroundings in the way believed to be fair in
accordance with the religious as well as the legal principles. However, it
is an abstract element, unable to be touched but able to be felt by heart.
The society, where there exists the justice, is assured to enjoy peace,