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03/21/21
16 -22-3-2021 LESSON 3628 Buddha-Sasana-The Physiology of the Sasana
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 16 -22-3-2021 LESSON 3628 Buddha-Sasana-The Physiology of the Sasana







The Buddha once said,


“… for those who have confidence in the foremost, the result is
foremost.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArbnIpQHSJY

The Physiology of the Sasana








Bo Bo was a typical young man born into a typical Buddhist family in
a typical Buddhist land. He was taught, even as an impish toddler, to revere the
Triple Gem, the nutriments of Buddhist practice and understanding. The
Buddha, for the youthful Bo Bo, had long exemplified certain values such as
selflessness, virtue and serenity, and the Dharma had been accessible primarily
through a few aphorisms like “Happiness comes only from within” and
“generosity creates great merit,” and maybe from hearing some stories of the
previous lives of the Buddha. The Sangha of Noble Ones, with whom he had
been in almost daily contact, provided living examples of what it is to live
deeply according to Buddhist principles, and of the joy and wisdom that
emerges in such a life. Bo Bo had lived as a part of a Buddhist community,
devoutly supportive of the monks and nuns, and generally practicing
generosity and virtue in an uplifting environment. He grew up with a mind
bent toward Buddhist values and Buddhist aspirations. He was fortunate to
have grown up in a culture of Awakening.






The Buddha once said,


“… for those who have confidence in the foremost, the result is
foremost.”
7








Bo Bo noticed that people adopt any of a wide variety of ways of life. He
himself for a time thought of marrying his cute neighbor, Yum Yum, and of
raising a family, but, indecisive by nature, he was reminded by the example of
the monks what a problem soap-operatic life can be. He noticed that the Noble
Ones were far more content and full of active goodwill than anyone else, in
spite of their utterly simple circumstances. After struggling with life’s
vicissitudes for a number of years and contemplating the nature of his dis-ease,
Bo Bo’s understanding progressed to the point that conventional life no longer
made much sense. Whereas before, he had thought that he had two options in
life, the worldly life and the holy life, he now realized that for him there was
only one way ahead: to forsake a personal footprint in favor of the selfless
Path that blossoms in Nirvana. And so, Bo Bo joined the monastic order, began
to study as the student of one of the neighborhood sages, and from that root
began to ascend the Path. Eventually he became one of the Noble Ones
himself, and found himself beginning to make a big difference in the lives of
others. With time and determination his practice blossomed one day into the
fruit of Awakening.







A Functional Sketch of the Buddha-Sasana.

The Sasana is like a flower, a system of integrated inter-functioning parts each
of which helps sustain the whole. In its complete and healthy condition it
defines a culture of Awakening. Its physiology was well articulated by the
Buddha, or in early Buddhism, and for the most part its integrity has been
remarkably well preserved through Buddhist history and throughout Buddhist
Asia, as I document in subsequent chapters. In brief, the Sasana functions in
three ways. First, the Refuges establish Buddha, Dharma and Sangha as
primary sources of wisdom and inspiration. This leans us all toward Dharma
even as we may also individually come under the many often unwholesome
influences alive in any culture. Second, the community provides opportunities
for optimal practice for those of highest aspiration. As a result, Noble Ones
walk among us and we are all ennobled by their influence. Third, the presence
of an adept community of Noble Ones, trainees and scholars ensures the
preservation and dissemination of an authentic Dharma in a culture of
Awakening


Chosen
a flower as a botanical metaphor, rather than a berry bush or
asparagus, because we are all intimately familiar with this most
decorative of plants. Here, in a nutshell to be opened later, is how the
Sasana, in virtually all of its manifestations both early and
traditional, maps onto the basic parts of the flower:








  • The stem that supports the blossom is the Path, the instructions for
    practice and understanding, most generally expressed in early
    Buddhism as the Noble Eightfold Path, and leading to Awakening.


  • The leaves and roots are the the Buddhist community. The roots are
    specifically the Monastic Sangha (Pali, bhikkhu-saṅgha), the order of
    ordained monks and nuns, actually fullfilling a specialized role within
    the community. The leaves and roots collect nourishment of sun,water and soil in order that the flower thrive.



    • The blossom of the flower is Awakening or Nirvana.

    • The sun, water and soil that nourish the flower are the Triple Gem,

      respectively the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. They inspire
      and bend the mind toward wholesome personal development.

    1. Now, here is the same thing at a finer level of detail:

    2. No photo description available.


      The Flower of the Sasana

      The Blossom


      This is Awakening (Pali or Sanskrit, bodhi), the highest attainment of human
      character, liberation from suffering, liberation from the taints, perfect wisdom,
      virtue, Enlightenment, Nirvana, transcendence of the round of rebirths. Most
      religions define some goal of liberation or salvation and some standard or
      benchmark by which that goal is attained as a definitive characteristic of the
      religion. Awakening sets the bar quite high. For Buddhism liberation is a
      singular attainment, one fulfilled completely by the Buddha, by the occasional
      arahant and by no others,
      8 for it entails the total perfection of the human
      character, and is generally assumed to require many lifetimes of effort. For
      Christianity, to take an example, salvation is generally a common attainment,
      one fulfilled by many, perhaps most, Christians, by conforming to the dictates
      of God, or perhaps taking Jesus as one’s savior.

      This distinction between singular attainment and common attainment is critical
      to the nature of the Buddha-Sasana, and to this study. To begin with, the
      support of the blossom of the Sasana requires the stem atop which Awakening
      sits, and in fact the entire physiology of the Sasana is oriented toward
      producing that blossom, a difficult and rare result. In this sense the Sasana
      represents a culture of Awakening. We will see additionally that fixing the
      benchmark goal of Buddhism at a singular attainment permits a certain
      elasticity in the varieties of more mundane Buddhist practice and doctrine.


      Most religions envision alternative levels of attainment to the benchmark. In a
      singular attainment school we expect there to be lesser provisional levels of
      attainment. In Buddhism there are four progressive levels of Awakening,
      beginning with stream entry (sotapatti) and ending with full Awakening or
      arahantship. Noble Ones are those that have attained at least the first of these.
      Aside from these there are various states of well-being gained through making
      merit through generosity, virtue and development of mental qualities. The
      result of making merit is generally described cosmologically in terms of levels
      of felicitous or unfortunate rebirth, but is also understood in terms of well-
      being in this life. Making merit does not depend so much on the more
      sophisticated Path practices oriented toward Awakening, but overlaps with
      them.

    The Stem

    This is the Path (Pali, magga) of individual practice and understanding that
    leads to Awakening. This is the most uniquely Buddhist part, the least
    communal and the presumed abode of the “spiritual” in contrast to the
    “religious.” The underlying principle behind practice is loosening the
    entangling bonds of personal neediness, aversion and views. All the strands of
    the stem work together and, when taken up with conviction, energy and a
    sense of urgency, guarantee progress. There is hardly anything like this in its
    practicality and sophistication in non-Buddhist and non-yogic religious
    spheres. Since there is abundant literature specifically on the Path I will have
    little to say about it in this book, but let me summarize it here.

    A particularly useful summary begins with elements that are properly practiced
    in community and thereby suggests how the stem grows out of the roots and
    leaves.. The formulation is called the gradual path, and presents elements of
    the Path in the order in which each should be initially pursued:
    9

    Generosity,

Virtue,
The heavens,
10
The drawbacks, degradation and corruption of sensual passions,
The rewards of renunciation.















When, from the pursuit of the foregoing, the mind is ready, malleable, free
from hindrances, elated and bright, the following should be taken up:


The Four Noble Truths.
The Fourth Noble Truth is the Eightfold Noble Path, the Path proper:


Wisdom Section:
Right View,


Right Resolve,
Virtue Section:


Right Speech,
Right Action,
Right Livelihood,


Samadhi Section:
Right Effort,


Right Mindfulness,
Right Samadhi.


The Path is the purest Buddha-Dharma, the primary concern of the Buddha’s
teaching, to which the individual of high aspiration devotes himself
relentlessly. This Path nonetheless is part of a context. For instance, the
individual’s motivation and trust in the Dharma are certainly prerequisites for
entering the Path in the first place; certain social conditions are required to
give rise to the individual’s motivation and trust, and to provide the resources
in time and training to enable the individual to pursue the Path.


The Leaves and Roots


This is the Buddhist community (Pali, parisā), including the life and activities
of the community, which also tends to be a primary locus of the Sasana. The
community has been from the beginning divided into parts, lay and monastic,
with clearly defined social roles. The monastic enjoys a special opportunity for
practice and study, but a fully committed member of either part is capable of
engaging the long ascent up the stem. The lifeblood of the Buddhist
community is generosity, for, as we will see, the symbiotic relationship of the
lay and monastic components cannot be sustained without the practice of
generosity. The community and the practice of generosity are effectively the
starting point of the Path of Buddhist practice.


Specifically, the Leaves

This is the Buddhist community as a whole with as its main component the lay
community. The main characteristic of the Buddhist lay community is that it is
not explicitly organized nor regulated in any special way, nor under any higher
command, but rather waits to be inspired by the Triple Gem to embrace
practice and understanding and to assume a particular relationship with nuns
and monks.







Specifically, the Roots


This is the Monastic or Institutional Sangha, the community of monks and
nuns. Its main characteristic is that it is organized in a very specific way,
inspires the support of the lay community and in this way is able to sustain that
rare lifestyle that is most conducive to Buddhist understanding and practice. It
serves to produce Noble Ones, who are the Sangha as it is most properly
understood. The particular organization of the Monastic Sangha is a primary
teaching of the Buddha, the topic of the massive Vinaya. The Monastic Sangha
is an institution in some ways comparable to non-Buddhist religious
institutions, though the functions of its clergy are in many ways quite
distinctive. In particular monks and nuns are not priests, at least not in early
Buddhism, that is, their role was not to act as an intermediary between the laity
and supernatural forces, nor to perform rites and rituals on behalf of the laity.


The Buddha spoke in no uncertain terms of the dangers of rites and rituals
(Pali, silabbata), even classifying attachment to these as the third of the ten
fetters to be abandoned on the Path.
11 One should be aware, however that he did not have in mind ritual or conventionalized expressions, which, like
words, are means of communication, and which would encompass many
things very familiar to us in the modern world, like shaking hands, unfolding
one’s napkin onto one’s lap at a proper dinner or waving goodbye and saying
“Ta-ta.” Certainly, as we will see, the Buddha fully endorsed bowing and other
physical expressions of reverence. Where the Buddha saw an error was in the
presumption that rites and rituals were directly efficacious for the purification
of one’s karma or future well-being, which he claimed can only come through
virtuous actions.
12 Accordingly the Buddha did not want the monks and nuns
to become priests and forbade such intermediary roles along with astrology,
numerology or other means of predicting the future, as well as exhibiting
paranormal powers, such as levitation or disappearing one place and appearing
somewhere else, in the presence of the laity.
13

Although the lay community is not explicitly organized, its behavior plays off
that of the Monastic Sangha. We will look at this relationship along with the
organization and functions of the Monastic Sangha in more detail in Chapter
Four, on community.







The Flower’s Nourishment


Refuge is the part of Buddhism that allows the roots and leaves to absorb the
nourishment of the sun, water and soil. Refuge focuses on the Triple Gem of
the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. These nourish the entire practice and,
in fact, taking Refuge in the Triple Gem generally constitutes the beginning of
Buddhist practice, or the official point of becoming a Buddhist. The
“devotional” act of expressing reverence for the Triple Gem, it should be
noted, is, at least in early Buddhism, not directed toward an otherworldly
being or force, but toward things very much this-worldly: toward a remarkable
person, albeit now long deceased, toward a set of teachings for and by humans,
and toward real people who happen to embody those teachings rather
thoroughly in their own lives.


The Buddha reached an advanced understanding, a level of insight and
knowledge, that he knew would be very difficult for others to achieve. As a
teacher he had to consider the process whereby others can reach that
understanding, and recognized that it requires a combination of trust in the
teacher(s) and teachings, and direct experience of what these point to. Trust
(Pali, saddhā) is necessary to put aside accumulated faulty notions, mostly
cultural in origin, in order to open oneself completely to the light of the
Buddha’s insight. Veneration of the Triple Gem is an important psychological
element in the development of that necessary trust. It is however nothing
whatever like blind faith, but more like the trust a student of science puts into
her teachers or a science graduate student puts into the specific paradigm her
professor advocates. This is, in other words, a trust that is subject to personal
verification as the attainment and understanding of the Buddhist develops, and,
as such, it is a trust that is replaced gradually with knowing directly from
experience. Refuge in the Triple Gem will be the topic of Chapter 3.

As we will see, devotional aspects of Buddhism ended up bubbling over in
perhaps all of the later traditions, particularly in northern lands. Often it
became so pronounced that it recast the objects of devotion, particularly the
Buddha himself, into something quite unanticipated.


Specifically, the Sun

This is the Buddha himself, brightening up our lives. Trust in his Awakening
inspires commitment to deeper practice. The Buddha stands as an example to
emulate, an admirable friend, vividly present in the accounts of his life and in
the Dharma-Vinaya, his teachings, and in the deportment and understanding of
those among us most shaped by his influence.

Specifically, Water

This is the Dharma. The teachings of the truth that the Buddha directly
experienced and the instructions for perfecting the human character constitute
the pure water that flows into every aspect of our Buddhist life and practice,
carried by the soil through the roots into leaves and up into the stem, to
nourish our practice at every level on our way to Awakening.







Specifically, Soil


This is the Sangha. This represents the adepts, past present and future, who
have gone far in the practice, perhaps attaining complete liberation, but
progressing at least as far as the first stage of Awakening, stream entry
(sotapatti), which enables them at least to discern Nirvana and to attain
unshakable trust in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The Sangha
nourishes the community through its visible example, its direct experience and
its teaching. Now, the Sangha here is properly called the Noble Sangha, or
synonymously the Noble Ones, who are much like saints, to distinguish it from
the Monastic Sangha, the members of an institution designed to spin off Noble
Ones one by one through the ascent of the stem. The roots are buried deep in
the soil, the monks and nuns have Noble Sangha between their toes, a soil
made rich by the many generations of inspiring Noble Ones. We can think of
the attainments of the Noble Ones as the petals of Nirvana. They fall to the
ground once they have blossomed in Awakening further to nourish the soil.

In the most vibrant, fully-functioning Sasana the Path is brightly illuminated
and well trod by those of aspiration, inspired onward by the Triple Gem.
Meanwhile the entire community benefits from the civilizing influence of the
many who ascend the path and attain the highest. The Buddha expressed this
function well:
14


“Monks, for this reason those matters which I have discovered and
proclaimed should be thoroughly learnt by you, practiced, developed
and cultivated, so that this holy life may endure for a long time, that it
may be for the benefit and happiness of the multitude, out of
compassion for the world, for the benefit and happiness of devas and
humans. And what are those matters …? They are: The four
foundations of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the four roads to
power, the five spiritual faculties, the five mental powers, the seven
factors of Awakening, the Noble Eightfold Path.”


July 29, 2016 The Growth of Buddha Sasana (5) by Venerable Dhammabhayri Sayadaw Ashin Viriya


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