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Dec 16 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati Tuesday declared
her support to the central government’s move to form a federal agency
for combating terror in the country.
Addressing a press conference here, Mayawati said:
‘The BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) would support the bill for setting up
the National Investigation Agency that was introduced in the Lok Sabha
earlier in the day.’
‘I have directed my party MPs to support the legislation,’ she said.
In the same vein, however, she expressed her doubts about the
determination and political will of the United Progressive Alliance
(UPA) government to combat terror.
‘The Congress-led UPA government lacks political will and
determination to fight terrorism. Therefore, I wonder how much will the
new agency be able to bear fruit,’ she said.
Flaying successive central governments, she said: ‘Neither the
earlier BJP-led NDA (National Democratic Alliance) nor the current
Congress-led UPA government had displayed true and sincere commitment
to curb unabated terrorism in the country.’
She also reacted sharply to a news item appearing in the media about Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, taht is, the Great Prabuddha Bharath being prevented to enter temples in Gujarat.
‘When Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, taht is, the Great Prabuddha Bharath decide to give up their religion and seek conversion
into another faith simply because they are prevented from entering
temples and participating freely in religious rituals, even then they
are harassed and tortured,’ said Mayawati.
‘I have decided to take up the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh, urging him to ensure that this kind of occurrence was not
repeated anywhere in the country,’ she asserted.
A letter was also sent to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi chastening him for this incident.
Refuting the Congress charge about poor law and order in the state,
Mayawati claimed ‘criminals were on the run on account of my
administration’s stern action against them’.
Training her guns at Uttar Pradesh Governor T.V.Rajeshwar, she said:
‘This UPA government appointed governor was not taking any action
against the Meerut university vice-chancellor, who was himself
responsible for leakage of examination question papers at a B.D.S.
Jammu: Rebutting that the BSP was pursuing policies against
upper-castes, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Wednesday said
it was the UPA government which was against the section as it turned
down the suggestion of the party to formulate a law aimed at benefiting
“Soon after we came to power in UP, we recommended to the Centre to
frame a law by undertaking amendment to the Constitution under which
economically weaker sections even in upper castes could get
“But the Centre did not pay any heed to the BSP’s request. Who is
against upper caste interests can be gauged by this fact,” she said
addressing a rally here.
“The day is not far when BSP will form government and ensure
reservation to the upper caste poor,” she said amid huge rounds of
applause from the 10,000-strong crowd. PTI
Area under rapeseed-mustard, chana increases.
New Delhi, Dec. 12 With Parliament elections due in the next 3-4
months, the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) can
take heart from increased planting of most rabi crops this year,
thereby enabling a further easing of inflationary pressures in the
Total area sown under wheat, rapeseed-mustard and chana (gram) – the three main crops during the rabi or winter season – is much higher this time compared to 2007-08.
According to the Agriculture Ministry’s latest Crop Weather Watch
Report, released here on Friday, wheat has been planted so far on
213.60 lakh hectares (lh), against 204.70 lh covered during the same
period last year.
Acreages have increased in Uttar Pradesh (from 65.66 lh to 67.48
lh), Punjab (33.40 to 33.69), Haryana (23.85 to 24.10), Madhya Pradesh
(19.34 to 25.88), Gujarat (23.07 to 23.12), Rajasthan (13.40 to 14.46)
and Bihar (5.92 to 6.32), while trailing behind in Maharashtra (7.38 to
If current trends hold and no abnormal rise in temperatures take
place in March, there is every possibility of the 2008-08 wheat crop
even surpassing last year’s record 78.40 million tonnes (mt).
In rapeseed-mustard, 2007-08 saw output falling to a dismal 5.80 mt,
following the preceding two years’ bumper levels of 7.44 mt and 8.13
mt, respectively. But this year, buoyed by good price realisations,
farmers have till now brought 63.28 lh under the crop, compared to the
57.02 lh covered in the corresponding period of 2007-08.
Area has gone up in Rajasthan (23.66 lh to 27.62 lh), Uttar Pradesh
(7.78 to 8.45), Madhya Pradesh (6.70 to 7.61), Haryana (4.99 to 6.25)
and West Bengal (4.25 to 4.35), while dipping marginally in Gujarat
(3.28 to 2.92).
Sowing of gram rises
Likewise, progressive sowing of gram has increased from 66.66 lh to
73.25 lh this year, led by Madhya Pradesh (from 22.11 lh to 26.31 lh),
Uttar Pradesh (5.84 to 8.49), Karnataka (6.84 to 8.07) and Andhra
Pradesh (6.07 to 6.08). However, lower acreages have been reported from
Rajasthan (12.68 to 11.65) and Maharashtra (10.32 to 8.84).
Acreages are higher relative to last year in the bulk of other rabi
cereals (maize, jowar, barley), oilseeds (sunflower, groundnut,
sesamum) and pulses (lentil, peas, lathyrus).
New Delhi (IANS): After its spectacular
victory in Uttar Pradesh in 2007, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is
expanding its influence in northern and central India, data from the
just ended State elections show.
In what is being described as a
creditable showing, the BSP has finally opened its account in Delhi’s
70-member Assembly with the election of two of its candidates in the
November 29 polls.
Similarly, the number of BSP
legislators in Madhya Pradesh has risen from two in 2003 to seven. In
Rajasthan, India’s largest State areawise, the BSP strength in the
Assembly has gone up from two in 2003 to six now.
In Chhattisgarh, the BSP has won two seats — the same as five years ago.
Everywhere, BSP leaders and election
officials say, the party has increased its vote percentage, indicating
a slow and steady growth of what has been called by many as India’s
fastest growing political outfit.
This is good news for the BSP and its
leader Mayawati, who last year stunned everyone by leading it to a
single-party victory in Uttar Pradesh — a feat that had eluded all
other parties for a long time.
Although the BSP was founded to promote
the cause of theAboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is, the Great Prabuddha Bharath candidates and it still counts them as its core support
base, Mayawati — who does not hide her Prime Ministerial ambitions –
has since begun to court all other social groups, including the Hindu
upper castes she once openly despised.
In these elections, the BSP cornered a
whopping 12 per cent of votes in Delhi, stunning the Congress and the
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which have always viewed the capital as
In Rajasthan, the BSP’s vote percentage
leaped from 3.9 per cent in 2003 to 7.8 per cent now, in Madhya Pradesh
from 7.26 per cent to 11 per cent and in Chhattisgarh from 4.45 per
cent to 6.11 per cent this time.
In these four States, BSP candidates
also finished second in as many as 33 constituencies — 10 in
Rajasthan, 17 in Madhya Pradesh, one in Chhattisgarh and five in Delhi.
Congress and BJP politicians admit they
are worried even though the BSP has no role to play in government
formation in any of the four States.
“The results clearly indicate the BSP
has widened its base in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and
Rajasthan,” BSP leader Swamy Prasad Maurya told IANS in Lucknow.
Most political analysts feel that if
the BSP continues to grow at this rate, slowly but steadily, it is
bound to become a major political player in northern and central India.
Sudha Pai, a professor of political
science at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, however pointed out
that the BSP has a long way to go before it can become a dominating
factor in the region — barring Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous
State which it has ruled since May 2007.
Pai pointed out that the BSP has been
able put up a good performance only in States where identity politics
matter — and regions seen as an extension of Uttar Pradesh.
“Although the BSP’s base has expanded,
it didn’t do as well as it was expected to in Delhi because issues of
development were seen by voters as more important.”
“The BSP has a long way to go before
becoming the deciding factor beyond the territorial boundaries of Uttar
Pradesh,” Pai told IANS.
The victory of the Congress in
Rajasthan is also seen by many as a clear sign that the bulk of Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is, the Great Prabuddha Bharath candidates
remain with that party despite the BSP’s growing clout.
Other analysts pointed out that many BSP candidates won mainly because of their individual standing.
Congress and BJP leaders are taking the BSP threat seriously.
A BJP veteran told IANS that the
assessment of his party was that the BSP would harm the Congress by
weaning away Dalit votes in Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. But
the BSP ended up also taking away chunks of upper caste Hindu voters
who may have otherwise chosen the BJP, he added.
One reason for this is the BSP’s decision to field a large number of non-Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is, the Great Prabuddha Bharath candidates, including those from upper castes.
Congress general secretary M. Veerappa
Moily told IANS: “This time we were concentrating more on the BJP. In
future we will have to have a strategy to counter the BSP as well.”
Charging the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with
bartering the interests of the people, she said: “The BSP alone can
guard your interests.”
“We stand for the poor and downtrodden,” Mayawati said to loud
cheers at the rally where blue flags emblazoned with the party symbol -
the elephant - fluttered all over.
Stating that her party had changed the socio-political and economic
scene in Uttar Pradesh, she said: “Our party will ensure equal share in
decision making for all communities and bring development to the
doorsteps of the people.”
The BSP, which is contesting all 37 seats in Jammu region and hopes
to make a dent in the electoral fortunes of the Congress and the BJP,
would usher in a new era of progress and development, Mayawati promised.
“We have done it in Uttar Pradesh. And we will do it here too,” she
said, adding that people in Jammu and Kashmir were suffering from
unemployment and a lack of basic amenities.
“Our eyes are set on the equality of all religions, communities and castes,” Mayawati said.
The BSP has no representation in the state assembly right now - its
lone legislator Manjeet Singh from Vijaypur constituency in Jammu
region has joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The rally was one of the largest in Jammu. It comes ahead of the
fifth round of polling in the state on Dec 13. The seven phased
election gets over on Dec 24.
Seeds of Social
The application of the Buddha’s teachings in the social
realm is spawning a social revolution among the Aboriginal Inhabitants of
Jambadvipa, that is, the Great Prabuddha Bharath (SC/STs) communities of
Prabuddha Bharath. Buddhism represents not only an alternative to oppressive
caste hierarchy, but is also providing practical ways to inner change so that
they become empowered socially as well as spiritually.
In recent times, the
social implications of Buddhist practice have become well known as ’socially
engaged Buddhism’. Far from being a new development in Buddhism, it goes right
back to the Buddha himself, who exhorted his first 60 disciples to go out and work for the welfare and happiness of all beings, “Bahujana
hitaya, bahujana sukhaya.” The rest of his life exemplified this spirit. He spent 35
years walking the pathways of north
them in whatever way he could. He was a critic of social ills, the caste
system, unjust government, wrong forms of livelihood, and all kinds of violence
and exploitation, including the neglect of the girl child.
Buddhist practice will express itself
in, and affect the world, in one way or another. For the last 27 years, I have
been working amongst Buddhist followers of Dr B. R. Ambedkar, most of who come
from socially deprived backgrounds. Buddhist spiritual practice has empowered
them, bringing about more confidence, a greater sense of responsibility, and
enhanced capabilities such that they feel empowered to make a positive social
The process of spiritual development is
described in Buddhism as consisting of the path of vision
and the path of transformation. Without a vision of the higher life or a feeling for it that draws us on,
there is no possibility of inner transformation. Vision can arise in different
ways, such as through deep aesthetic or mystical experience, grief, friendship
or social work resulting in selflessness,
disillusionment, inner emptiness, a yearning for deeper meaning in life, and so on.
The Buddha exemplifies what a human
being can do with his or her life if they make the effort. He is shown
meditating, teaching, giving courage and strength, walking mindfully, but
however he is shown, he always communicates peace, confidence, compassion and energy. In some Buddhist
traditions this vision includes other archetypal Buddha figures that represent
various aspects of enlightenment, thus making this great vision of Buddhahood
accessible to us. There is also the vision of a pure land where all beings are
shown sitting on lotuses, listening blissfully to the Buddha teaching. This
vision encompasses the whole of humanity; it envisages a world in which life conditions support all humans in
practicing the dhamma.
Inner to Outer
In the early 1960s, as
a teenager in
I began to become socially aware. Racial discrimination, the dangers of nuclear
weapons, and social inequality were some of the questions that engaged me. Like
so many others, I wanted a better world, a safer and more equitable place to
live in, but I soon became disillusioned with politics as a means to bring
about that change. In the early 1970s, desperate to know how I could channel my
unruly emotions and make better use of my mind, I
took up Buddhist meditation under the guidance of
Sangharakshita, an English Buddhist who, before founding the Friends of the
Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) in the late 1960s, had spent 20 years in India
where he had become known as a meditator, Buddhist scholar, poet, and for his work teaching those followers of Dr Ambedkar
who had converted to Buddhism.
Although Sangharakshita presented Buddhism at first in the language of
individual spiritual development, he soon introduced the glorious vision of the
Bodhisattva, the being who is devoted as much to the welfare and enlightenment of others as to his or her own -
indeed the Bodhisattva sees no ultimate difference between the two. He showed
how the transformation of the individual and the world
are inextricably interrelated; such that we cannot work on ourselves without affecting society.
And we cannot help society unless we are working on ourselves. This teaching
drew together in a higher harmony the two seemingly conflicting and disparate
areas of my life - personal growth and social emancipation.
Vision is not enough. To realize it we need to work on ourselves and follow the path of
transformation. Sangharakshita started by teaching meditation, the most direct
way of working on the mind. As we tried to practice we soon realized that meditation
was not just about peace, love
and bliss, it was not a miracle cure for the emotionally disturbed.
Rather, by taking us inward, it opened up the real state of our minds and
emotions, and showed us the task before us.
Sangharakshita made it clear what transformation meant in practice. Sometimes he
would speak in terms of the Noble Eight-Fold Path in which transformation consists of working on many
fronts, our emotions (so they support and not undermine
our vision), speech, actions, relationships, livelihood, awareness, energy, and
mental states. Sometimes he would speak of the three-fold way of ethics, meditation
and wisdom, each supporting and augmenting the others.
We soon realized that developing skillful mental states through meditation
made us more aware of our behaviour, speech and attitudes towards
others - we became more ethically sensitive. We also realized that we could not
go from a gross or unethical state into meditation, which made us aware of the
need for an ethical base for meditation. Meditation
prepared the mind to cultivate wisdom or insight into the nature of reality, while deeper reflections
supported the practice of meditation and ethics. Ethics are inevitably bound up with how we
relate to others. Meditation is concerned with cultivating
awareness and highly positive mental states such as loving kindness and
compassion. Wisdom involves understanding in a direct way that there is no
ultimate difference between oneself and others. All three are intimately
connected with how we relate to others.
Sangharakshita would also talk of the path in more obvious Mahayana terms, as
the ‘Paramitas’. These involved the cultivation of generosity, ethics,
patience, energy, meditation and wisdom, so that one would be
able to help others more effectively, minimizing one’s weaknesses and
maximizing one’s strengths. There was no doubt that the path involved thorough transformation of body, speech and mind,
necessarily involving one’s behaviour, speech, and attitudes towards others.
The radical, integrated nature of spiritual life slowly became apparent and led us into
the unknown. We would go on retreat for long periods of time, immersing ourselves
in dhamma practice and spiritual fellowship, experiencing a new and higher kind
of existence. We began to wonder how this experience could be continued back in
the everyday world. Some of us experimented with living in residential
spiritual communities, creating an environment that stimulated and encouraged
our practice, even though we had little or no money.
There was the question of livelihood. Could we work in a way that allowed us more contact
with others practicing the spiritual life and gave more time for dhamma practice or
helping dhamma activities? What we do and how we do it, especially when it
occupies such a large proportion of our lives, affects not only our own mental
states, but also others whom our work affects. If we are producing anything
that is directly or indirectly harmful to others, we are partially responsible
for their suffering. The same goes for consuming things that involve
exploitation of beings in their production. What we did had to be of benefit to
other beings, and certainly not harmful.
in 1977 and met Sangharakshita’s Ambedkarite disciples. I caught a glimpse of
Dr Ambedkar’s great vision of a society in which everyone was free to develop
themselves to the fullest, and all related to each other on the basis of
equality and friendship, not by political means but through Buddhist practice.
Devoting his life to the eradication of untouchability, he
had, after a long and arduous journey, realized that effective social change
will only come about through change within the individuals, deep attitudinal
and ethical changes. In a talk in
November 1956, he said, “The greatest thing that the Buddha has done is to
tell the world that the world cannot be reformed except by the reformation of
the mind of man, and the mind of the world.” So inspired was I by this
vision that I wanted to be part of it, and encouraged by my teacher,
Sangharakshita and his Indian disciples, decided to live in India.
In the West most people come to Buddhism for psychological reasons. In
different. Dr Ambedkar’s followers were moved by his vision of a new society
brought about by the practice of Buddha dhamma. However, he died just six weeks
or so after the great conversion in October 1956, which had sadly been ignored
by the Buddhist world. Being amongst the most socially deprived in
little chance to develop without guidance. I met people everywhere, and still
do, who are desperate for spiritual nourishment, who want to know in practice
how they can contribute to this social revolution.
Based on the premise that one cannot help the world unless one is working on
one’s own mind, we started with meditation
classes and Buddhist study. Despite living in poor and often
overcrowded conditions, people tried to practice regularly, even though it
meant doing so after everyone had gone to bed or before everyone awoke. I knew
that once people had begun to editate regularly and study the dhamma, as well
as meet with others likewise committed, their inner lives would gradually open
out, lotus-like. Their inner explorations would begin to affect their
behaviour, speech and deepest attitudes. They would begin to be less
dissatisfied with material matters and have more energy available for spiritual
One of the first things I noticed was the effect those practicing meditation
began to have on their old friends. Their attempts to cultivate
skillful speech and mental states overflowed into their social interactions.
They began to emerge more truly as individuals, and their friends and relatives
found that they would no longer just go along with the old ‘group’ attitudes,
but began to think and act for themselves. Their positivity became stronger and
they were more able to give support in difficulties.
Problems and Solutions
Problems of the world did not disappear. At the beginning of our work in 1978, terrible atrocities took place
in Marathwada on Dalits just because the government of
had announced a university to be named after Dr Ambedkar. People were killed,
women raped, and hundreds of homes burnt in casteist violence. People would ask
me how they should respond.
I found it hard to find a suitable answer, having just come from such a
different environment. By the time of the reservation troubles in Ahmedabad in
1981, we had a few people who had been practicing for several years. Every
night we went around Dalit localities encouraging people not to respond to
violence with violence, not to seek revenge, but to find a peaceful and
creative way forward, as would have been the Buddha’s and Dr Ambedkar’s advice.
Many people attended our meetings, some of them with grave injuries, but they
all listened attentively.
I have traveled extensively, especially amongst followers of Dr Ambedkar and
Dalits. I have found invariably that those who are following a spiritual
practice through Buddhism avoid the two common extreme
reactions to caste discrimination and violence. Not only are they less likely
to be inflamed, but they are also unlikely to go to the other extreme of being
cowed and intimidated. They are able to take a more individual and creative approach
to their centuries-old oppression.
Within a few years we had a flourishing wing of the FWBO (Trailokya Bauddha
with about 20 Buddhist teaching centers, as well as a retreat center and
publications wing. We held frequent meditation
retreats, some very large. These were important because at home,
often in crowded and noisy localities with entire families living in one room,
it was difficult to get down to regular practice. With no distractions, and
just practicing the dhamma, most would experience a joy they had never
experienced before. They understood from their own experience that they could
change their mental states through dhamma practice. Although many did not meditate
regularly, they would go away changed. They would carry with them confidence,
born out of personal experience, that the dhamma worked, that it did bring
about changes in the mind. They would give up old unhelpful practices such as
alcohol abuse, and would become more sensitive to the way they treated others,
especially women, and to social practices such as dowry.
We have held many lecture tours in the towns and villages of
I personally traveled extensively throughout Marathwada, Konkan and Vidharba
throughout the 1980s. Everywhere people wanted to hear the dhamma presented in
practical terms. What whetted their interest was the presence in our teams of
Buddhists like them (apart from me all originally so-called Dalits) speaking to
them about the dhamma, confident, inspired, from understanding born of practice
and not just books. Deprived of spiritual nourishment, they were infected by
our confidence and inspiration. It is not that we played any tricks, or
beguiled them. We just presented the dhamma in as rational but meaningful
manner as we were able to.
We found we could not practice meditation
on loving kindness and compassion and close our eyes to the appalling
conditions in which so many people amongst and around us lived. As a response
we developed social work projects that consisted of hostels for
school children from socially deprived backgrounds of which there are about 25
at present, as well as health and education community
centers in slums, of which there are over 70 today. While most of
these projects are in
some in five other states.
We have also been able to conduct relief and rehabilitation work in the aftermath of the Maharashtra
December 2004 tsunami, and at the time of writing, of the Mumbai floods. These
have been spontaneous responses born out of spiritual practice to the difficulties
of those around us, and have developed a greater sense of responsibility in
those organizing them. With a confidence born out of their dhamma practice,
they do not feel overwhelmed by, and passive to, difficult situations, but on
the contrary feel empowered. This is proof that spiritual practice does bring
about not only individual change, but can also lead to social change.
Social activities provide those engaged in them right livelihood in the sense
that the work is not harmful to them or others, and is
ethically and socially positive. The opportunity to work with other practitioners is crucial. It
is hard to progress in one’s spiritual life if most of the people we are in contact
with are cynical about spirituality, and emotionally gross, reactive, and
negative. The importance of close contact with co-practitioners is the
principle of sangha, which along with the Buddha, the ideal of human enlightenment to which we aspire, and the
dhamma, the path of teaching that we follow, form the Three Jewels of Buddhism.
The essence of sangha is spiritual friendship, spiritual friends being those
with whom we share our highest values, are totally open, and who want the best
for us without consideration for personal gain.
Dr Ambedkar talked of the sangha (lay people as well as monks) as consisting of
individuals devoted to transforming themselves in body, speech and mind.
Dedicated to cultivating skillful mental states, they would be able to help
others effectively, and work with awareness, clarity, energy, and
genuine concern, without attachment, and in harmony. Helping others would be a
spontaneous and organic part of their practice. Clearly, the sangha constituted
for him a model society. He said, “Positively my social philosophy may be
said to be enshrined in three words: liberty, equality, and fraternity. Let no
one however say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French Revolution.
I have not. …I have derived them (sic) from the teachings of my master, the
Buddha.”Many questions remain that have largely to do with identity and
old conditioned attitudes, amongst both new Buddhists and caste Hindus, that
perpetuate old polarizations as well as terrible social deprivation. Though our
dhamma and social projects have benefited many, especially children, our most
valuable contribution is the example we give to others of working as a
spiritual community. Not only do those who are involved in this work find their spiritual practice
strengthened so that their work and example is even more effective, but
as a spiritual community in action, they exemplify that it is
possible to live a higher and more meaningful social life. From their
experience, and their communication with each other, they have discovered the
seeds of social transformation that may ultimately lead to a
new, caste-free society.
Dharmachari Lokamitra (born Jeremy Goody) has guided Buddhist activities under
the Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha, Sahayaka Gana (TBMSG) and Bahujan Hitay since
1978. He is helping develop the Nagarjuna Institute in
Buddhist practice and application of Buddhist principles to social situations.
Recently, he has been involved in rehabilitation work among the tsunami-affected in Tamil Nadu
and poorer victims of Mumbai floods. He continues to lecture on Buddhism and teach Buddhist meditation.
The modern world has seemingly undertaken a serious
experiment with regard to whether or not a man can
live without any god or religion.
“God is dead,” said Nietzsche. This was the
destiny of modern European civilization because of
science and technology.
Ren‚ Descartes is said to be the founder of
modern European philosophy. According to Hegel,
Descartes is truly an originator of modern philosophy
as long as modern philosophy claims “thought” as its
principle. After he doubted everything, Descartes
reached a “thinking ego” whose existence cannot be
doubted. This “thinking ego,” that is, reason or
intellect, was the starting point of his philosophy.
It was not only the starting point of the Cartesian
philosophy, but of the whole modern philosophy or
civilization, insofar as it demands the sundering of
mind from nature and a subsequent mechanical
conception of nature, and implicitly affirmed the
need for, and right of, man to control this nature
for his own purposes.
Now this event in modern civilization is no
longer confined to the European world. European
civilization, particularly its science and
technology, conquered the whole world by its rich
productivity and powerful weapons. There is no
country in the world which is not affected by Western
science and technology. Thus the fate of the European
civilization has become the fate of the whole world.
However, as Nietzsche saw, a formidable atheism
is inherent in the early stage of modern
civilization. “God is not simply dead, but we killed
Him.” God became useless to man when man developed a
complete trust in his own reason and set about to
exert an absolute control over the material world at
his own will. God is dead, and man and material
nature took over the position of God.
Dostoevsky, a prophet of historical destiny like
Nietzsche, speaks through the mouth of Ivan: “There
is neither God nor immortality. As there is neither
God, nor immortality, man is allowed to do
everything.” He means that there is no morality
without God. Karamazov asked his son Ivan: “Have we
been deceived by priests for such a long time if
there is neither God nor immortality (as you say)?”
Ivan answered, “There would not be our civilization
if there were neither God nor immortality.” As Ivan
says, all civilizations heretofore have been founded
on religion. However, contrary to Ivan’s words, a
civilization is now about to be formed without God
It is time for us to ask with Dostoevsky: Can man
secure his existence in a civilization without God?
Will the day come when mankind must pay its debt for
indulging in a fantasy? Or will the day of reckoning
never come since that day would at once be the day of
the total collapse of civilization?
In the past century
Japanhas made the utmost
effort to adopt the European
civilization of science and technology, but without
accepting Christianity. At the same time we stopped
giving sincere concern to Buddhism or Confucianism.
In other words, we did not import god (religion) from
outside and at the same time we killed our own gods
(religions) in the name of modern civilization. By
killing the gods,
Japanachieved her modernization.
As the result of such modernization
one of the highest gross national products in the
world. However, with this material prosperity, a
monstrous vanity begins to pervade the atmosphere in
our society. We have no god to believe in. We have
become the most godless people in the world and we
have no inspiring motivations but impulses for
material goods and sex.
However, can any man of the West laugh at such
economic animals? Was it not the European who taught
the non-European people to kill their gods? If this
is the case, we were more diligent in killing gods
than were our teachers. In the terms of an old
Japanese expression, we are the students who excel
The death of gods, the collapse of values, the
liberation of instincts, and the consequent disorder
are now forming a critical situation in the present
world. In this situation, we cannot but deal with the
problem as to whether or not mankind can survive
without any god. This seems to be the most important
and critical problem in the present world.
There may be three possible answers to the
 that man can survive without god and should
become a kind of god himself (Marx, Nietzsche,
Sartre, Camus, etc.);
 that man must have a god and a new rebirth is
possible for man by regaining his old beliefs in god
(Berdyaev, Dawson, D. T. Suzuki, etc.);
 that god is necessary, but he should not be
the god of the past, and thus a new god must be
sought, though mankind has not yet met him.
I propose to discuss the philosophy of Martin
Heidegger in terms of the third viewpoint stated
above. He is neither a proponent for returning to
Christianity like Berdyaev or Dawson, nor an atheist
like Marx or Sartre.
God is dead, and a new god has not yet revealed
himself. In order to receive a new god, Heidegger
must first prepare a place for him. In order to
prepare the place we should find the place where the
old god had revealed himself. The place where the old
god had revealed himself is the place for the new
god. In Heidegger’s philosophy the key issue is
whether or not he has discovered the place where the
old god had revealed himself and whether or not he
has prepared the place for the new god.(1)
(1) Cf. Martin Heidegger, “Brief ber den
Humanismus,” in Wegmarken (Frankfurt am Main:
Vittorio Klostermann, 1949).
The expression “the place for god,” whatever it
may mean, is apt to be thought of by a European
within the boundary of his own world. However, if we
deal with the above issue beyond the boundary of the
European world, we must consider the fact that there
existed many religions as well as many gods. Needless
to say, there have been not only monotheistic
religions but polytheistic religions as well. In
contrast to the monotheism of Europe the native
religions of Japan are regarded as polytheistic.
This polytheism might be criticized by Christianity as
not being a true religion, but this does not mean
that Buddhism or Confucianism cannot deal with the
issue of the place for a new god.
We can speculate on the problem proposed by
Heidegger beyond the European cultural boundary by
developing the above-mentioned questions raised for
his philosophy as follows: Is it the case that the
place for god argued for by Heidegger is not only
appropriate for Christianity, but that it is also an
appropriate place for the god in any other religion?
Here I should like to refer this question only to
Buddhism. Our question is whether the place for god
thought by Heidegger can be a right place from the
viewpoint of Buddhism.
I do not intend here to explicate Heidegger’s
philosophy in detail. It will be more appropriate for
a man whose cultural background is similar to
Heidegger’s to do that. It is highly questionable if
a man of a different cultural background can grasp
the exact meaning of Heidegger’s philosophy. It is
quite possible that I misunderstand Heidegger’s
philosophy. However, what I intend to do is not to
discuss his philosophy directly, but to discuss my
own thought as it is inspired by Heidegger.
The central issue of Heidegger’s philosophy has
always been “What is being?” “Being” had been
regarded as self-evident in the European tradition of
thought. But Heidegger throws doubt on “being” when
thought of as self-evident.
What is being? Being is not simply that which
exists. A notebook exists here and a table exists
there. But they are not being itself. The distinction
between “being itself” and “beings” Heidegger calls
the ontological difference. He maintains that all
traditional metaphysics and ontology have ignored
this difference by regarding “beings” as “being
It is necessary to clarify the very meaning of
“being itself” as distinguished from “beings.”
Heidegger thinks that the meaning of “being itself”
is to be disclosed through an actual being whose mode
of existence is distinctly superior to all other
modes of existence. What is this actual being? It is
one whose mode of existence is superior in the sense
that it has awareness of its own existence. Heidegger
thinks such actual being is man (Dasein). Thus,
Heidegger claims that we must examine the meaning of
Dasein, that is, human existence. in order to reach
being itself (Sein). What is the meaning of
human existence? Heidegger seeks the meaning of
Dasein in terms of time. What he means by “time” is
neither time objectively conceived nor time
According to Heidegger, “time” means “finitude.”
“Finitude” means “being unto death.” This is to say,
Dasein is temporal and man, being temporal, is
finite, that is, a being unto death. His criticism of
ontology since Plate is made from the standpoint of
conceiving human existence in terms of finitude, that
is, death. In the tradition of European ontology,
being is sought after through that which exists (das
Seiende), but not through the existence of man
(Dasein).Things which exist are projected in such a
way that they are simply stared at (begafft) by man.
When man becomes the subject who absentmindedly
stares at the world, things look as if they are
simply existing before us. Heidegger calls such an
Heidegger thinks that such a manner of conceiving
things is due to the ordinariness of Dasein. Man
ordinarily forgets his death which is his essence and
lives with this or that thing. Living in this manner,
he conceives of being in terms of the function of
In contrast to this understanding of existence,
Heidegger opens the way to an existential
understanding of being. It is a way of understanding
which reaches being itself through Dasein as the
finite being, that is, the being unto death.
Heidegger in his Being and Time refers to this task
of understanding as fundamental ontology. He tried to
develop this fundamental ontology by adopting the
methodology of Husserl’s phenomenology, but he came
to realize that it is impossible to develop his new
way of understanding being within a phenomenology
whose theme was the analysis of subjectconsciousness.
The “turn” or “reversal” in his thinking (Kehre)
seems to begin from this realization, but I will not
inquire into this any further.
Now what I wish to ask is: What significance does
Heidegger’s philosophy of being have for the present
historical situation of the Eastern as well as the
Western world? It should be noted first of all that,
even though the ontology in which being is sought not
through things but through finite human existence
might be thought of as unique in the Western world,
it is familiar to Orientals, especially to Buddhists.
We Japanese are brought up with the following words
from Buddhism: “All living beings are mortal and all
forms are to disappear.” This is an ontological view
which grasps not only human being but all other
living beings in terms of death. This might be said,
in Heidegger’s terms, to be the ontological view
which grasps being through human being which is
finite, that is, being unto death. Further, our
question is related to Heidegger’s criticism that
European ontology lacks the concept of death. As a
non-European I cannot but notice that a distinctive
characteristic in the European history of thought is
its concern with death. I notice the two great deaths
which have the utmost significance in themselves. The
two deaths are, needless to say, those of Socrates
and Jesus Christ. Despite Heidegger’s criticism, I
should say that these deaths were certainly the
highlights of the European history of thought.
But what does it mean that these two deaths
constitute the most significant events in European
spiritual civilization? In the history of the East
there are no deaths of the utmost spiritual
significance. In Buddhism, the death of Buddha had,
to be sure, the utmost significance, but in
Confucianism there is no such concern with death.
Confucius said: “I have not yet known life, how can I
know death?” We see the decisive significance in the
deaths of Jesus, Socrates, and Buddha, but we do not
see any significance in the death of Confucius.
Death does not necessarily have the utmost
significance in each spiritual civilization.
Therefore, can it be said that the civilization which
has the great deaths as the highlight of its history
also has its roots deeply in death, contrary to
The above is not the only thing which amazes us
with regard to European history. What amazes us even
more is the fact that the deaths were either murder
or a kind of suicide. For the Oriental, natural death
is ideal. Man is born from Nature and returns to
Nature. Returning home, returning to the motherly
earth is the ideal of the Orient. The form of death
must be painless. ‘Saakyamuni Buddha returns in peace
into Nature after he has lived for eighty years. In
the East the man whose death is not natural is not
qualified to be a saint. In this regard the spiritual
tradition of the West differs from that of the East.
Here a question arises as to why a man who was
murdered can be the most ideal man in the West.
There arises yet another problem. What does the
death of Socrates or Jesus mean in the spiritual
history of the West? The death of Socrates means
neither the mere end of his life, nor a return to
nothingness, in the Buddhist sense. Socrates, facing
death, proved the immortality of the soul. And he
died without fear, as if he were going to another
splendid world. The soul which cognizes the eternal
is also eternal like the eternal Idea. If the soul is
eternal, it does not fade away at death. Facing death
Socrates imagines the realm of the spirit awaiting
his soul. Death here does not mean the returning to
nothingness as in the case of Buddha. Death, for
Socrates, is an assurance of eternal life for man.
In the case of Jesus Christ, his death also does
not mean returning to nothingness. Jesus was the Son
of God. As the Son of God, Jesus is essentially
immortal. His Crucifixion was to atone for the sin of
man. But he was resurrected from death and he will
come again to bring the Kingdom of God. Such death
cannot mean what death truly means. His death is to
mean the proof for eternal life–it is a much more
decisive proof than Socrates’ death. Through His
death the atonement for man’s sin as well as immortality
of the soul are promised. Jesus is in eternal Heaven
after the Resurrection. Through
Him man may ascend to eternal Heaven. In other words,
man is promised his eternal life as well as the
coming of the new Kingdom of God. The death of Jesus
promises much more than that of Socrates.
If such is the case, we would think as follows:
The two deaths as the highlights of European
tradition are not death as we understand it. They are
seemingly deaths, but they are in fact proofs for
eternal life. Through those two deaths eternity is
brought into the European world.
When we consider death in this way, we have to
withdraw our previous question raised about
Heidegger’s viewpoint that there was no concept of
death in the traditional ontology of the West. His
viewpoint after all seems to be right in grasping the
spiritual tradition of the West, since we can
recognize these deaths as the proofs for eternity.
The deaths were not the death of a finite being in
Now I should like to proceed to discuss Buddhism.
However, we must admit the difficulty or even
impossibility of presenting a thorough explication of
Buddhism. It is much more difficult to talk about
Buddhism in general than about Christianity in
general. The reason is that there is not a single
Bible but many Bibles in Buddhism. Buddhist suutras
had been written in the name of ‘Saakyamuni Buddha
several hundred years after his death. These texts
went to China without being systematically arranged,
and innumerable commentaries were written on them.
In addition Buddhist suutras were written in China,
and once they were completed in China, it became
impossible to distinguish them from those originating
in India. Thus all suutras became regarded as the
teachings of ‘Saakyamuni Buddha himself. In such a
situation the most important work for monks in China
was to search for the true teachings of Buddha among
innumerable texts. Kumaarajiiva (A.D. 350-409)
discovered a pattern among them and thus brought
about a solution to this problem. He worked on the
translation of Mahaayaana suutras in Ch’ang-an and at
the same time originated, in the beginning of the
fifth century, the Chinese Buddhistic studies which
were carried on thereafter.
Dr. D. T. Suzuki introduced Zen Buddhism to the
West. He thought Zen to be the most excellent school
in Mahaayaana Buddhism. His works taught a way of
learning Zen in the West and even in Japan herself.
Westerners have the preconception, before their visit
to Japan, that Japanese culture is influenced totally
by Zen. But contrary to their expectation, Zen does
not have so pervasive an influence in Japanese
culture. It is quite questionable whether the core of
Japanese culture is Zen. Mahaayaana Buddhism is not
necessarily represented by Zen. Even in Japanese
Buddhism, Zen is merely a part of it.
And the Zen introduced by Suzuki to the West is that
of the Lin-chi school (Rinzai Zen).(2)
Although it is very difficult to grasp Buddhism
as a whole, I will try to depict the characteristics
of Buddhism just as Heidegger tried to grasp the
characteristics of the metaphysics of the West as a
Buddhism can be said to grasp beings in terms of
death or finitude. For example, let us consider the
doctrine of the four noble truths. The truths are as
1. The truth that suffering exists.
2. The truth that suffering has a cause.
3. The truth that the cause can be removed.
4. The truth that there are eight practices by
which the cause of suffering can be removed.
Let us begin with the first truth. Human being is
conceived in terms of “suffering” (du.hkha). This
means that man is subject to four sufferings, namely,
birth, aging, disease, and death. Among these four
death is the severest suffering. Buddha himself
emphasized the suffering of death. Man is mortal and
therefore his existence is suffering. Here one might
notice that human existence is conceived in terms of
death or finitude.
With regard to the second truth, Buddha speaks
about the cause of suffering. It is attachment to or
craving for existence. Suffering is caused by man’s
attachment to something for which he craves.
Man must be freed from such sufferings. The third
truth teaches us to eliminate the cause of suffering.
And in order to eliminate suffering, there are eight
practices which must be followed.
‘Saakyamuni Buddha grasps human existence in
terms of death. How to eliminate the suffering of
death’ Buddha does not see the solution in the
immortality of the soul or in eternal life in the
Socratic or Christian sense. Buddha regards such
doctrines as dogmatic. They meant to him nothing but
an escape from the utter finitude of human existence.
The attachment to existence which is latent inman is
the most decisive cause of fear of death. Man will
attain freedom and purity through emancipation from
the suffering of death, that is, through deliverance
from the attachment to his own existence. We find
many portraits of ‘Saakyamuni Buddha entering
nirvaa.na, in other words, at his death. In these
pictures he is surrounded by many disciples, people,
and animals. Not only men but even animals grieve
over the death of Buddha. But the Buddha, who is
about to die, is in a state of serenity.
(2) See my Bi to Shuukyo(-) no Hakken [The Rediscovery
of Traditional Beauty and Religion] (Tokyo, 1967)
and especially the article “Critical Studies of
Suzuki’s and Watsuji’s Views on Japanese
Culture,” in which I point out in detail the
inadequacy of Suzuki’s analysis of some aspects
of Japanese culture.
Even the trace of a smile is perceived on his lips.
The Buddha’s smile does not mean only satisfaction
that he has done all that he had to do. His teaching
itself is to emancipate one from death and this
emancipation is now serenely taking place in his own
The notion of “beings” might have determined the
ontology of the West as Heidegger pointed out, but it
is certainly not the case in Buddhism. In Buddhism
“nothingness” (’Suunya) is regarded as far more
important than “beings.” This is not because the
Buddhist prefers “nothingness” as a subject matter
for theoretical inquiry;rather it is because he
conceives man’s existence in terms of death. Human
existence is handed over into nothingness or
In the past century Japan has brought in
philosophy as well as science from the West. Kitaro(-)
Nishida (1870-1945), a close friend of D. T. Suzuki,
established his own Buddhist-like philosophy while he
studied European philosophy. Nishida systematized a
philosophy of “absolute dialectics” and was
profoundly influenced by Hegel’s philosophy of
“absolute mind.” But in Nishida’s philosophy the
absolute is not being but nothingness or nonbeing, as
is the case in Buddhistic thinking. Beings, as long
as they are beings, must be determined; hence they
are unfree. Buddhism claims that the truly absolute
and the truly free must be nothingness.
However, we should notice that Nishida dealt with
“nothingness” within a logical scheme as Hegel did,
while the thought of nothingness in Buddhism is
related to ontological issues whose definite
implication was the problem of death. Man is mortal;
hence the essence of his being is nothingness or
Death is the central point of inquiry into man’s
being. For all schools of Buddhism death is that
through which man is conceived from beginning to end.
The greatest Zen master of the thirteenth century,
Do(-)gen, quotes from Naagaarjuna’s words, as follows:
“The mind which introspects transiency of all
sentient beings in this world is named Bodhi
mind.”(3) Here he means that the Bodhi mind is based
on the mind that knows the finitude of man’s being.
The very self-awareness of the finitude of being
makes man free from attachment to fame, money, and
sex. In short, Do(-)gen means that there is no path
for man in Buddhism without his awareness of transiency.
From such a thought he develops a unique theory of
As to the problem of so-called being and time, time
itself is a being. All beings are times. A
sixteen-foot golden Buddha is a time. Because it is a
time, time is golden light. Three-headed eight-handed
Asura is a time. Because it is a time, the
relationship of oneness holds between the “image” and
the “present 24 hours.” Even though a time of 24
hours has not yet been measured, it is said to be 24
hours. Since a day’s having 24 hours has been obvious
to man for
(3) Cf. Do(-)gen. Fukanzazengi [Invitation to Zaren].
a long time, man neither questions the present 24
hours nor has any attachment to the present 24 hours.
But though man neither questions nor has attachment,
this does not mean that he is enlightened. Since,
needless to say, men’s questions and attachments to
unknown things and beings are not constant, previous
questions and attachments are not necessarily equal
to the present ones. A question and attachment are a
According to Dogen, not only man but beings in
general are temporal beings. Time changes itself from
being to nonbeing. In this sense time is finite. But
without this very time there can be no beings
including man’s being. If this is the case, this
present time is itself absolute. Beings can be Buddha
in a definite time, or “Asura” in another definite
time, or something else in each definite time. Each
is absolute being in each appearance. Each being has
its absolute present.
A man once crossed a river and passed a hill. And
now he lives in a splendid house. He thinks that the
time he lives in the house is present and the time he
crossed the river and passed the hill are past. But
this is not right. The time when he crossed the river
is the absolute present and the time when he now
lives in the house is also the absolute present. Each
time is itself independent, namely, absolute present.
For Dogen all beings are in absolute present, and
this awareness of absolute present as the ground of
beings is satori (enlightenment). Thus man can be
free from changes. It is impossible for man to derive
the proof of eternity from the belief in the
unchanging and eternal subsistence of changing time.
Contrary to this, man will find the proof of eternity
by throwing himself into this present and that
present and by living up his whole existence in this
present. Flowers bloom. Here is an absolute present.
Flowers fall. Here again is an absolute present. When
man moves his eyebrow and opens his eyes with
surprise, here is an absolute present. When he does
not move his eyebrow and does not open his eyes with
surprise, there is also an absolute present. Beings
exist as they are. This is what Do(-)gen’s view on
being and time means.
Here is another passage from Do(-)gen. “If Buddha
is there in birth and death as such, then there is
no birth and death. Again, if Buddha is not there in
birth and death as such, then there is no
attachment…. Enlighten yourself that birth and
death are Nirvana as they are. Birth and death are
not such things to be weary of and Nirvana is not
such a thing to be craved for. Here man transcends
birth and death.”(5)
This finite being (man) enters nirvaa.na as he
is. Man should not attach himself to this finite
life, because such attachment is derived from his
belief that this finite life is something to be
maintained. At the same time man should not deny this
finite life, because such denial is after all the
(4) Do(-)gen, Sh(¡Ã+o)b(¡Ã+o)genz(¡Ã+o), chapter
“Uji” [Being and Time].
(5) Ibid., chapter “Sh(¡Ã+o)ji” [Birth and Death].
attachment to this finite life. Neither being weary
of this life nor craving nirvaa.na leads man to
enlightenment. Do(-)gen does not believe in the
immortality of the soul. Buddhism does not seek
Buddha apart from this “birth and death.” Freedom is
within this “birth and death,” namely, this finite
¡ In Japanese history Do(-)gen is not the only thinker
who bases his thought on the awareness of such
finitude. Kuukai (774-835), the founder of
Shingonshuu, and Saicho (762-822), the founder of
Tendai-shuu, start their thinking from the awareness
of transiency, namely, the finiteness and emptiness
of man’s being and the universe. The same can be said
about H(¡Ã+o)nen (1133-1212), the founder of Jodo-shuu, and
Shinran (1173-1262), the founder of Jodo Shin-shuu,
who are contemporaries of Do(-)gen. But they came up with
an approach that is different from Do(-)gen’s.
Man is finite. This world is impure. Man should
detach himself from this short and impure human
world, and should seek to enter the eternal and pure
land. As far as we live in this world, however, we
cannot enter that eternal and pure land. Man can
enter the Amida pure land after death. Man can go to
the pure land by virtue of calling “Namuamidabutsu.”
This thought of the Pure Land school developed
further in Shinran’s faith. In Shinran’s faith the
pure land is not sought after death, but rather in
this a ctual world and by man’s faith in Amida.
It seems certain that the approaches to death
differ in the different schools in Buddhism, but
their point of departure is the same, namely, the
self-awareness of death or finiteness. This is the
case not only in Buddhism, but in the whole culture
and art of Japan. The thought of death retains great
significance in Japanese art. Japanese dramas can be
said to be the dramas of death. For example, in N(¡Ã+o)
plays, the dead are often heroes who reappear in this
world. The Kabuki plays often show how man will die a
magnificent death whatever the causes of the death
In conclusion, it seems to me that Heidegger proposes
a new philosophical problem to the entire world in
two ways. It is in one sense an inquiry into the
foundation of the novel spiritual situation where
nihilism is latent within the European scientific
civilization, a civilization which nonetheless has
succeeded in unifying the whole world. But this
civilization lacks a spiritual foundation. In
exposing European scientific civilization to total
criticism, Heidegger is perhaps one of the first
thinkers of the West to provide a place of dialogue
and confrontation between the European principle and
the non-European principle.
Heidegger proposes a new philosophical problem in
a different way through his criticism of the notion
of finiteness or death in the traditional ontology of
the West. Here he reveals himself as a prophet who
sees the destiny of beings in death. Being a prophet
of the destiny of death, he is again a severe critic
of the modern civilization of the West. Since
Descartes modern philosophy has not dealt with the
problem of death which had in fact been considered in
the philosophy of Plate and Christianity.
History is consequently viewed as characterized
by progress and development in the West. For
Japanese, however, history does not necessarily mean
progress and development, but rather it has meant
“decay.” For example, Confucius views history as the
continuous process of decay since the reign of the
ancient sacred emperor. Buddhism also views history
as decaying from the age of “Right Dharma” to the age
of the “Closing of Dharma.”
How man should think of death from now on and
what the destiny of “man unto death” in a godless
world might be are questions to be asked by the
people of the whole world. These questions should be
dealt with in the continuing dialogue between
thinkers of the East and the West, and through this
dialogue the answers might be found. Martin Heidegger
is a great philosopher in having opened a new age of
So hard it is to do, Lord,It’s so very hard to do!
But still they do what's hard to do,Who steady themselves with virtue.For one pursuing homelessness,Content arrives, and with it joy.
So hard it is to get, Lord,This content of which you speak!
But still they get what's hard to get,Who delight in a tranquil mind.The mind of those, both day and night,Delights in its development.
So hard it is to tame, Lord,This mind of which you speak!
But still they tame what's hard to tame,Who delight in senses at peace.Cutting through mortality’s net,The nobles, Kamada, proceed.
So hard it is to go, Lord,On this path that gets so rough!
Still nobles, Kamada, proceed
On paths both rough and hard to take.
Those who are less than noble fall
On their heads when the path gets rough.
But for nobles the path is smooth
— For nobles smooth out what is rough!
This practice of ours is not easy. We may know some things but there
is still much that we don’t know. For example, when we hear teachings
such as “know the body, then know the mind within the body”; or “know
the mind, then know the mind within the mind.” If we haven’t yet
practiced these things, then we hear them we may feel baffled. The Vinaya 5 is like this. In the past I used to be a teacher, 6 but I was only a “small teacher,” not a big one. Why do I say a “small teacher”? Because I didn’t practice. I taught the Vinaya
but I didn’t practice it. This I call a small teacher, an inferior
teacher. I say an “inferior teacher” because when it came to the
practice I was deficient. For the most part my practice was a long way
off the theory, just as if I hadn’t learned the Vinaya at all.
However, I would like to state that in practical terms it’s impossible to know the Vinaya
completely, because some things, whether we know them or not, are still
offenses. This is tricky. And yet it is stressed that if we do not yet
understand any particular training rule or teaching, we must study that
rule with enthusiasm and respect. If we don’t know, then we should make
an effort to learn. If we don’t make an effort, that is in itself an
For example, if you doubt… suppose there is a woman and, not knowing whether she is a woman or a man, you touch her. 7
You’re not sure, but still go ahead and touch… that’s still wrong. I
used to wonder why that should be wrong, but when I considered the
practice, I realized that a meditator must have sati, he must
be circumspect. Whether talking, touching or holding things, he must
first thoroughly consider. The error in this case is that there is no sati, or insufficient sati, or a lack of concern at that time.
Take another example: it’s only eleven o’clock in the morning but at
the time the sky is cloudy, we can’t see the sun, and we have no clock.
Now suppose we estimate that it’s probably afternoon… we really feel
that it’s afternoon… and yet we proceed to eat something. We start
eating and then the clouds part and we see from the position of the sun
that it’s only just past eleven. This is still an offense. 8 I used to wonder, “Eh? It’s not yet past mid-day, why is this an offense?”
An offense is incurred here because of negligence, carelessness, we
don’t thoroughly consider. There is a lack of restraint. If there is
doubt and we act on the doubt, there is a dukkata 9
offense just for acting in the face of the doubt. We think that it is
afternoon when in fact it isn’t. The act of eating is not wrong in
itself, but there is an offense here because we are careless and
negligent. If it really is afternoon but we think it isn’t, then it’s
the heavier pacittiya offense. If we act with doubt, whether
the action is wrong or not, we still incur an offense. If the action is
not wrong in itself it is the lesser offense; if it is wrong then the
heavier offense is incurred. Therefore the Vinaya can get quite bewildering.
At one time I went to see Venerable Ajahn Mun. 10 At that time I had just begun to practice. I had read the Pubbasikkha 11 and could understand that fairly well. Then I went on to read the Visuddhimagga, where the author writes of the Silanidesa (Book of Precepts), Samadhinidesa (Book of Mind-Training) and Paññanidesa
(Book of Understanding)… I felt my head was going to burst! After
reading that, I felt that it was beyond the ability of a human being to
practice. But then I reflected that the Buddha would not teach
something that is impossible to practice. He wouldn’t teach it and he
wouldn’t declare it, because those things would be useful neither to
himself nor to others. The Silanidesa is extremely meticulous, the Samadhinidesa more so, and the Paññanidesa even more so! I sat and thought, “Well, I can’t go any further. There’s no way ahead.” It was as if I’d reached a dead-end.
At this stage I was struggling with my practice… I was stuck. It
so happened that I had a chance to go and see Venerable Ajahn Mun, so I
asked him: “Venerable Ajahn, what am I to do? I’ve just begun to
practice but I still don’t know the right way. I have so many doubts I
can’t find any foundation at all in the practice.”
He asked, “What’s the problem?”
“In the course of my practice I picked up the Visuddhimagga and read it, but it seems impossible to put into practice. The contents of the Silanidesa, Samadhinidesa and Paññanidesa
seem to be completely impractical. I don’t think there is anybody in
the world who could do it, it’s so detailed and meticulous. To memorize
every single rule would be impossible, it’s beyond me.”
He said to me: “Venerable… there’s a lot, it’s true, but it’s
really only a little. If we were to take account of every training rule
in the Silanidesa that would be difficult… true… But actually, what we call the Silanidesa
has evolved from the human mind. If we train this mind to have a sense
of shame and a fear of wrong-doing, we will then be restrained, we will
“This will condition us to be content with little, with few wishes,
because we can’t possibly look after a lot. When this happens our sati becomes stronger. We will be able to maintain sati at all times. Wherever we are we will make the effort to maintain thorough sati.
Caution will be developed. Whatever you doubt don’t say it, don’t act
on it. If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask the teacher.
Trying to practice every single training rule would indeed be
burdensome, but we should examine whether we are prepared to admit our
faults or not. Do we accept them?”
This teaching is very important. It’s not so much that we must know
every single training rule, if we know how to train our own minds.
“All that stuff that you’ve been reading arises from the mind. If
you still haven’t trained your mind to have sensitivity and clarity you
will be doubting all the time. You should try to bring the teachings of
the Buddha into your mind. Be composed in mind. Whatever arises that
you doubt, just give it up. If you don’t really know for sure then
don’t say it or do it. For instance, if you wonder, “Is this wrong or
not?” — that is, you’re not really sure — then don’t say it, don’t act
on it, don’t discard your restraint.”
As I sat and listened, I reflected that this teaching conformed with
the eight ways for measuring the true teaching of the Buddha: Any
teaching that speaks of the diminishing of defilements; which leads out
of suffering; which speaks of renunciation (of sensual pleasures); of
contentment with little; of humility and disinterest in rank and
status; of aloofness and seclusion; of diligent effort; of being easy
to maintain… these eight qualities are characteristics of the true Dhamma-vinaya, the teaching of the Buddha. anything in contradiction to these is not.
“If we are genuinely sincere we will have a sense of shame and a
fear of wrongdoing. We will know that if there is doubt in our mind we
will not act on it nor speak on it. The Silanidesa is only words. For example, hiri-ottappa 12 in the books is one thing, but in our minds it is another.”
Studying the Vinaya with Venerable Ajahn Mun I learned many things. As I sat and listened, understanding arose.
So, when it comes to the Vinaya I’ve studied considerably.
Some days during the Rains Retreat I would study from six o’clock in
the evening through till dawn. I understand it sufficiently. All the
factors of apatti 13 which are covered in the Pubbasikkha
I wrote down in a notebook and kept in my bag. I really put effort into
it, but in later times I gradually let go. It was too much. I didn’t
know which was the essence and which was the trimming, I had just taken
all of it. When I understood more fully I let it drop off because it
was too heavy. I just put my attention into my own mind and gradually
did away with the texts.
However, when I teach the monks here I still take the Pubbasikkha
as my standard. For many years here at Wat Ba Pong it was I myself who
read it to the assembly. In those days I would ascend the Dhamma-seat
and go on until at least eleven o’clock or midnight, some days even one
or two o’clock in the morning. We were interested. And we trained.
After listening to the Vinaya reading we would go and consider what we’d heard. You can’t really understand the Vinaya just by listening to it. Having listened to it you must examine it and delve into it further.
Even though I studied these things for many years my knowledge was
still not complete, because there were so many ambiguities in the
texts. Now that it’s been such a long time since I looked at the books,
my memory of the various training rules has faded somewhat, but within
my mind there is no deficiency. There is a standard there. There is no
doubt, there is understanding. I put away the books and concentrated on
developing my own mind. I don’t have doubts about any of the training
rules. The mind has an appreciation of virtue, it won’t dare do
anything wrong, whether in public or in private. I do not kill animals,
even small ones. If someone were to ask me to intentionally kill an ant
or a termite, to squash one with my hand, for instance, I couldn’t do
it, even if they were to offer me thousands of baht to do so. Even one ant or termite! The ant’s life would have greater value to me.
However, it may be that I may cause one to die, such as when
something crawls up my leg and I brush it off. Maybe it dies, but when
I look into my mind there is no feeling of guilt. There is no wavering
or doubt. Why? Because there was no intention. Silam vadami bhikkhave cetanaham:
“Intention is the essence of moral training.” Looking at it in this way
I see that there was no intentional killing. Sometimes while walking I
may step on an insect and kill it. In the past, before I really
understood, I would really suffer over things like that. I would think
I had committed an offense.
“What? There was no intention.” “There was no intention, but I
wasn’t being careful enough!” I would go on like this, fretting and
So this Vinaya is something which can be disturb
practitioners of Dhamma, but it also has its value, in keeping with
what the teachers say — “Whatever training rules you don’t yet know you
should learn. If you don’t know you should question those who do.” They
really stress this.
Now if we don’t know the training rules, we won’t be aware of our
transgressions against them. Take, for example, a Venerable Thera of
the past, Ajahn Pow of Wat Kow Wong Got in Lopburi Province. One day a
certain Maha, 14 a disciple of his, was sitting with him, when some women came up and asked,
“Luang Por! We want to invite you to go with us on an excursion, will you go?”
Luang Por Pow didn’t answer. The Maha sitting near him thought that Venerable Ajahn Pow hadn’t heard, so he said,
“Luang Por, Luang Por! Did you hear? These women invited you to go for a trip.”
He said, “I heard.”
The women asked again, “Luang Por, are you going or not?”
He just sat there without answering, and so nothing came of the invitation. When they had gone, the Maha said,
“Luang Por, why didn’t you answer those women?”
He said, “Oh, Maha, don’t you know this rule? Those people
who were here just now were all women. If women invite you to travel
with them you should not consent. If they make the arrangements
themselves that’s fine. If I want to go I can, because I didn’t take
part in making the arrangements.”
“The Maha sat and thought, “Oh, I’ve really made a fool of myself.”
The Vinaya states that to make an arrangement, and then travel together with, women, even though it isn’t as a couple, is a pacittiya offense.
Take another case. Lay people would bring money to offer Venerable Ajahn Pow on a tray. He would extend his receiving cloth, 15
holding it at one end. But when they brought the tray forward to lay it
on the cloth he would retract his hand from the cloth. Then he would
simply abandon the money where it lay. He knew it was there, but he
would take no interest in it, just get up and walk away, because in the
Vinaya it is said that if one doesn’t consent to the money it
isn’t necessary to forbid laypeople from offering it. If he had desire
for it, he would have to say, “Householder, this is not allowable for a
monk.” He would have to tell them. If you have desire for it, you must
forbid them from offering that which is unallowable. However, if you
really have no desire for it, it isn’t necessary. You just leave it
there and go.
Although the Ajahn and his disciples lived together for many years,
still some of his disciples didn’t understand Ajahn Pow’s practice.
This is a poor state of affairs. As for myself, I looked into and
contemplated many of Venerable Ajahn Pow’s subtler points of practice.
The Vinaya can even cause some people to disrobe. When they
study it all the doubts come up. It goes right back into the past…
“my ordination, was it proper? 16 Was my preceptor pure? None of the monks who sat in on my ordination knew anything about the Vinaya,
were they sitting at the proper distance? Was the chanting correct?”
The doubts come rolling on… “The hall I ordained in, was it proper?
It was so small…” They doubt everything and fall into hell.
So until you know how to ground your mind it’s really difficult. You
have to be very cool, you can’t just jump into things. But to be so
cool that you don’t bother to look into things is wrong also. I was so
confused I almost disrobed because I saw so many faults within my own
practice and that of some of my teachers. I was on fire and couldn’t
sleep because of those doubts.
The more I doubted, the more I meditated, the more I practiced.
Wherever doubt arose I practiced right at that point. Wisdom arose.
Things began to change. It’s hard to describe the change that took
place. The mind changed until there was no more doubt. I don’t know how
it changed, if I were to tell someone they probably wouldn’t understand.
So I reflected on the teaching Paccattam veditabbo viññuhi — the wise must know for themselves. It must be a knowing that arises through direct experience. Studying the Dhamma-vinaya
is certainly correct but if it’s just the study it’s still lacking. If
you really get down to the practice you begin to doubt everything.
Before I started to practice I wasn’t interested in the minor offenses,
but when I started practicing, even the dukkata offenses became as important as the parajika offenses. Before, the dukkata
offenses seemed like nothing, just a trifle. That’s how I saw them. In
the evening you could confess them and they would be done with. Then
you could transgress them again. This sort of confession is impure,
because you don’t stop, you don’t decide to change. There is no
restraint, you simply do it again and again. There is no perception of
the truth, no letting go.
Actually, in terms of ultimate truth, it’s not necessary to go
through the routine of confessing offenses. If we see that our mind is
pure and there is no trace of doubt, then those offenses drop off right
there. That we are not yet pure is because we still doubt, we still
waver. We are not really pure so we can’t let go. We don’t see
ourselves, this is the point. This Vinaya of ours is like a fence to guard us from making mistakes, so it’s something we need to be scrupulous with.
If you don’t see the true value of the Vinaya for yourself
it’s difficult. Many years before I came to Wat Ba Pong I decided I
would give up money. For the greater part of a Rains Retreat I had
thought about it. In the end I grabbed my wallet and walked over to a
certain Maha who was living with me at the time, setting the wallet down in front of him.
“Here, Maha, take this money. From today onwards, as long as I’m a monk, I will not receive or hold money. You can be my witness.”
“You keep it, Venerable, you may need it for your studies”… The Venerable Maha wasn’t keen to take the money, he was embarrassed…
“Why do you want to throw away all this money?”
“You don’t have to worry about me. I’ve made my decision. I decided last night.”
From the day he took that money it was as if a gap had opened
between us. We could no longer understand each other. He’s still my
witness to this very day. Ever since that day I haven’t used money or
engaged in any buying or selling. I’ve been restrained in every way
with money. I was constantly wary of wrongdoing, even though I hadn’t
done anything wrong. Inwardly I maintained the meditation practice. I
no longer needed wealth, I saw it as a poison. Whether you give poison
to a human being, a dog or anything else, it invariably causes death or
suffering. If we see clearly like this we will be constantly on our
guard not to take that “poison.” When we clearly see the harm in it,
it’s not difficult to give up.
Regarding food and meals brought as offerings, if I doubted them I
wouldn’t accept them. No matter how delicious or refined the food might
be, I wouldn’t eat it. Take a simple example, like raw pickled fish.
Suppose you are living in a forest and you go on almsround and receive
only rice and some pickled fish wrapped in leaves. When you return to
your dwelling and open the packet you find that it’s raw pickled
fish… just throw it away! 17
Eating plain rice is better than transgressing the precepts. It has to
be like this before you can say you really understand, then the Vinaya becomes simpler.
If other monks wanted to give me requisites, such as bowl, razor or
whatever, I wouldn’t accept, unless I knew them as fellow practitioners
with a similar standard of Vinaya. Why not? How can you trust
someone who is unrestrained? They can do all sorts of things.
Unrestrained monks don’t see the value of the Vinaya, so it’s possible that they could have obtained those things in improper ways. I was as scrupulous as this.
As a result, some of my fellow monks would look askance at me…”He
doesn’t socialize, he won’t mix…” I was unmoved: “Sure, we can mix
when we die. When it comes to death we are all in the same boat,” I
thought. I lived with endurance. I was one who spoke little. If others
criticized my practice I was unmoved. Why? Because even if I explained
to them they wouldn’t understand. They knew nothing about practice.
Like those times when I would be invited to a funeral ceremony and
somebody would say, “…Don’t listen to him! Just put the money in his
bag and don’t say anything about it… don’t let him know.” 18
I would say, “Hey, do you think I’m dead or something? Just because one
calls alcohol perfume doesn’t make it become perfume, you know. But you
people, when you want to drink alcohol you call it perfume, then go
ahead and drink. You must be crazy!”.
The Vinaya, then, can be difficult. You have to be content
with little, aloof. You must see, and see right. Once, when I was
traveling through Saraburi, my group went to stay in a village temple
for a while. The Abbot there had about the same seniority as myself. In
the morning, we would all go on almsround together, then come back to
the monastery and put down our bowls. Presently the laypeople would
bring dishes of food into the hall and set them down. Then the monks
would go and pick them up, open them and lay them in a line to be
formally offered. One monk would put his hand on the dish at the other
end. And that was it! With that the monks would bring them over and
distribute them to be eaten.
About five monks were traveling with me at the time, but not one of
us would touch that food. On almsround all we received was plain rice,
so we sat with them and ate plain rice, none of us would dare eat the
food from those dishes.
This went on for quite a few days, until I began to sense that the
Abbot was disturbed by our behavior. One of his monks had probably gone
to him and said, “Those visiting monks won’t eat any of the food. I
don’t know what they’re up to.”
I had to stay there for a few days more, so I went to the Abbot to explain.
I said, “Venerable Sir, may I have a moment please? At this time I
have some business which means I must call on your hospitality for some
days, but in doing so I’m afraid there may be one or two things which
you and your fellow monks find puzzling: namely, concerning our not
eating the food which has been offered by the laypeople. I’d like to
clarify this with you, sir. It’s really nothing, it’s just that I’ve
learned to practice like this… that is, the receiving of the
offerings, sir. When the lay people lay the food down and then the
monks go and open the dishes, sort them out and then have them formally
offered… this is wrong. It’s a dukkata offense. Specifically,
to handle or touch food which hasn’t yet been formally offered into a
monk’s hands, “ruins” that food. According to the Vinaya, any monk who eats that food incurs an offense.
“It’s simply this one point, sir. It’s not that I’m criticizing
anybody, or that I’m trying to force you or your monks to stop
practicing like this… not at all. I just wanted to let you know of my
good intentions, because it will be necessary for me to stay here for a
few more days.
He lifted his hands in añjali, 19 “Sadhu!
Excellent! I’ve never yet seen a monk who keeps the minor rules in
Saraburi. there aren’t any to be found these days. If there still are
such monks they must live outside of Saraburi. May I commend you. I
have no objections at all, that’s very good.”
The next morning when we came back from almsround not one of the
monks would go near those dishes. The laypeople themselves sorted them
out and offered them, because they were afraid the monks wouldn’t eat.
From that day onwards the monks and novices there seemed really on
edge, so I tried to explain things to them, to put their minds at rest.
I think they were afraid of us, they just went into their rooms and
closed themselves in in silence.
For two or three days I tried to make them feel at ease because they
were so ashamed, I really had nothing against them. I didn’t say things
like “There’s not enough food,” or “bring ‘this’ or ‘that’ food.” Why
not? Because I had fasted before, sometimes for seven or eight days.
Here I had plain rice, I knew I wouldn’t die. Where I got my strength
from was the practice, from having studied and practiced accordingly.
I took the Buddha as my example. Wherever I went, whatever others
did, I wouldn’t involve myself. I devoted myself solely to the
practice, because I cared for myself, I cared for the practice.
Those who don’t keep the Vinaya or practice meditation and
those who do practice can’t live together, they must go separate ways.
I didn’t understand this myself in the past. As a teacher I taught
others but I didn’t practice. This is really bad. When I looked deeply
into it, my practice and my knowledge were as far apart as earth and
Therefore, those who want to go and set up meditation centers in the
forest… don’t do it. If you don’t yet really know, don’t bother
trying, you’ll only make a mess of it. Some monks think that going to
live in the forest they will find peace, but they still don’t
understand the essentials of practice. They cut grass for themselves, 20
do everything themselves… Those who really know the practice aren’t
interested in places like this, they won’t prosper. Doing it like that
won’t lead to progress. No matter how peaceful the forest may be you
can’t progress if you do it wrong.
They see the forest monks living in the forest and go to live in the
forest like them, but it’s not the same. The robes are not the same,
eating habits are not the same, everything is different. Namely, they
don’t train themselves, they don’t practice. The place is wasted, it
doesn’t really work. If it does work, it does so only as a venue for
showing off or publicizing, just like a medicine show. It goes no
further than that. Those who have only practiced a little and then go
to teach others are not yet ripe, they don’t really understand. In a
short time they give up and it falls apart. It just brings trouble.
So we must study somewhat, look at the Navakovada, 21
what does it say? Study it, memorize it, until you understand. From
time to time ask your teacher concerning the finer points, he will
explain them. Study like this until you really understand the Vinaya.
The cittas that occur through the five physical sense doors, and the
mind-door cittas taking sense objects, belong to the sensuous plane of
consciousness. They are called kaamaavacara cittas. The jhaana
cittas are meditative states of consciousness. Their object is not a
sense impression but a meditation object experienced through the
mind-door. The jhaana citta may depend on subtle materiality (ruupaavacara citta) or, if more refined, may be independent of materiality (aruupaavacara citta).
There are five stages of ruupa jhaana and four of aruupa jhaana. No
attempt will be made to analyze these stages except to state that each
is more refined than its predecessor.
It is extremely difficult to attain even the first stage of jhaana. To do so one has to be well established in virtue (siila) and eliminate the five mental hindrances, at least temporarily. These five hindrances are: sense desire (kaamacchanda), ill-will (vyaapaada), sloth and torpor (thiina and middha), restlessness and worry (uddhacca and kukkucca), and doubt (vicikicchaa).
Though difficult, it is well worth attempting to attain jhaana by regular and ardent practice of samatha bhaavanaa,
i.e., concentration-meditation. Even if we do not reach the first stage
of jhaana, even a brief elimination of the five mental hindrances will
give us a taste of a happiness which far surpasses that derived from
the senses. When restlessness, anxiety and worry try to overwhelm us in
our daily lives we will benefit by sitting for a period and developing
concentration. We will realize that nothing is more satisfying than the
ability to keep a check on the frivolous, fickle mind.
The second factor of the path is called in Pali samma sankappa,
which we will translate as “right intention.” The term is sometimes
translated as “right thought,” a rendering that can be accepted if we
add the proviso that in the present context the word “thought” refers
specifically to the purposive or conative aspect of mental activity,
the cognitive aspect being covered by the first factor, right view. It
would be artificial, however, to insist too strongly on the division
between these two functions. From the Buddhist perspective, the
cognitive and purposive sides of the mind do not remain isolated in
separate compartments but intertwine and interact in close correlation.
Emotional predilections influence views, and views determine
predilections. Thus a penetrating view of the nature of existence,
gained through deep reflection and validated through investigation,
brings with it a restructuring of values which sets the mind moving
towards goals commensurate with the new vision. The application of mind
needed to achieve those goals is what is meant by right intention.
The Buddha explains right intention as threefold: the intention of
renunciation, the intention of good will, and the intention of
The three are opposed to three parallel kinds of wrong intention:
intention governed by desire, intention governed by ill will, and
intention governed by harmfulness.15
Each kind of right intention counters the corresponding kind of wrong
intention. The intention of renunciation counters the intention of
desire, the intention of good will counters the intention of ill will,
and the intention of harmlessness counters the intention of harmfulness.
The Buddha discovered this twofold division of thought in the period
prior to his Enlightenment (see MN 19). While he was striving for
deliverance, meditating in the forest, he found that his thoughts could
be distributed into two different classes. In one he put thoughts of
desire, ill will, and harmfulness, in the other thoughts of
renunciation, good will, and harmlessness. Whenever he noticed thoughts
of the first kind arise in him, he understood that those thoughts lead
to harm for oneself and others, obstruct wisdom, and lead away from
Nibbana. Reflecting in this way he expelled such thoughts from his mind
and brought them to an end. But whenever thoughts of the second kind
arose, he understood those thoughts to be beneficial, conducive to the
growth of wisdom, aids to the attainment of Nibbana. Thus he
strengthened those thoughts and brought them to completion.
Right intention claims the second place in the path, between right
view and the triad of moral factors that begins with right speech,
because the mind’s intentional function forms the crucial link
connecting our cognitive perspective with our modes of active
engagement in the world. On the one side actions always point back to
the thoughts from which they spring. Thought is the forerunner of
action, directing body and speech, stirring them into activity, using
them as its instruments for expressing its aims and ideals. These aims
and ideals, our intentions, in turn point back a further step to the
prevailing views. When wrong views prevail, the outcome is wrong
intention giving rise to unwholesome actions. Thus one who denies the
moral efficacy of action and measures achievement in terms of gain and
status will aspire to nothing but gain and status, using whatever means
he can to acquire them. When such pursuits become widespread, the
result is suffering, the tremendous suffering of individuals, social
groups, and nations out to gain wealth, position, and power without
regard for consequences. The cause for the endless competition,
conflict, injustice, and oppression does not lie outside the mind.
These are all just manifestations of intentions, outcroppings of
thoughts driven by greed, by hatred, by delusion.
But when the intentions are right, the actions will be right, and
for the intentions to be right the surest guarantee is right views. One
who recognizes the law of kamma, that actions bring retributive
consequences, will frame his pursuits to accord with this law; thus his
actions, expressive of his intentions, will conform to the canons of
right conduct. The Buddha succinctly sums up the matter when he says
that for a person who holds a wrong view, his deeds, words, plans, and
purposes grounded in that view will lead to suffering, while for a
person who holds right view, his deeds, words, plans, and purposes
grounded in that view will lead to happiness.16
Since the most important formulation of right view is the
understanding of the Four Noble Truths, it follows that this view
should be in some way determinative of the content of right intention.
This we find to be in fact the case. Understanding the four truths in
relation to one’s own life gives rise to the intention of renunciation;
understanding them in relation to other beings gives rise to the other
two right intentions. When we see how our own lives are pervaded by dukkha, and how this dukkha
derives from craving, the mind inclines to renunciation — to abandoning
craving and the objects to which it binds us. Then, when we apply the
truths in an analogous way to other living beings, the contemplation
nurtures the growth of good will and harmlessness. We see that, like
ourselves, all other living beings want to be happy, and again that
like ourselves they are subject to suffering. The consideration that
all beings seek happiness causes thoughts of good will to arise — the
loving wish that they be well, happy, and peaceful. The consideration
that beings are exposed to suffering causes thoughts of harmlessness to
arise — the compassionate wish that they be free from suffering.
The moment the cultivation of the Noble Eightfold Path begins, the
factors of right view and right intention together start to counteract
the three unwholesome roots. Delusion, the primary cognitive
defilement, is opposed by right view, the nascent seed of wisdom. The
complete eradication of delusion will only take place when right view
is developed to the stage of full realization, but every flickering of
correct understanding contributes to its eventual destruction. The
other two roots, being emotive defilements, require opposition through
the redirecting of intention, and thus meet their antidotes in thoughts
of renunciation, good will, and harmlessness.
Since greed and aversion are deeply grounded, they do not yield
easily; however, the work of overcoming them is not impossible if an
effective strategy is employed. The path devised by the Buddha makes
use of an indirect approach: it proceeds by tackling the thoughts to
which these defilements give rise. Greed and aversion surface in the
form of thoughts, and thus can be eroded by a process of “thought
substitution,” by replacing them with the thoughts opposed to them. The
intention of renunciation provides the remedy to greed. Greed comes to
manifestation in thoughts of desire — as sensual, acquisitive, and
possessive thoughts. Thoughts of renunciation spring from the wholesome
root of non-greed, which they activate whenever they are cultivated.
Since contrary thoughts cannot coexist, when thoughts of renunciation
are roused, they dislodge thoughts of desire, thus causing non-greed to
replace greed. Similarly, the intentions of good will and harmlessness
offer the antidote to aversion. Aversion comes to manifestation either
in thoughts of ill will — as angry, hostile, or resentful thoughts; or
in thoughts of harming — as the impulses to cruelty, aggression, and
destruction. Thoughts of good will counter the former outflow of
aversion, thoughts of harmlessness the latter outflow, in this way
excising the unwholesome root of aversion itself.
The Buddha describes his teaching as running contrary to the way of
the world. The way of the world is the way of desire, and the
unenlightened who follow this way flow with the current of desire,
seeking happiness by pursuing the objects in which they imagine they
will find fulfillment. The Buddha’s message of renunciation states
exactly the opposite: the pull of desire is to be resisted and
eventually abandoned. Desire is to be abandoned not because it is
morally evil but because it is a root of suffering.17
Thus renunciation, turning away from craving and its drive for
gratification, becomes the key to happiness, to freedom from the hold
The Buddha does not demand that everyone leave the household life
for the monastery or ask his followers to discard all sense enjoyments
on the spot. The degree to which a person renounces depends on his or
her disposition and situation. But what remains as a guiding principle
is this: that the attainment of deliverance requires the complete
eradication of craving, and progress along the path is accelerated to
the extent that one overcomes craving. Breaking free from domination by
desire may not be easy, but the difficulty does not abrogate the
necessity. Since craving is the origin of dukkha, putting an end to
dukkha depends on eliminating craving, and that involves directing the
mind to renunciation.
But it is just at this point, when one tries to let go of
attachment, that one encounters a powerful inner resistance. The mind
does not want to relinquish its hold on the objects to which it has
become attached. For such a long time it has been accustomed to
gaining, grasping, and holding, that it seems impossible to break these
habits by an act of will. One might agree to the need for renunciation,
might want to leave attachment behind, but when the call is actually
sounded the mind recoils and continues to move in the grip of its
So the problem arises of how to break the shackles of desire. The
Buddha does not offer as a solution the method of repression — the
attempt to drive desire away with a mind full of fear and loathing.
This approach does not resolve the problem but only pushes it below the
surface, where it continues to thrive. The tool the Buddha holds out to
free the mind from desire is understanding. Real renunciation is not a
matter of compelling ourselves to give up things still inwardly
cherished, but of changing our perspective on them so that they no
longer bind us. When we understand the nature of desire, when we
investigate it closely with keen attention, desire falls away by
itself, without need for struggle.
To understand desire in such a way that we can loosen its hold, we need to see that desire is invariably bound up with dukkha.
The whole phenomenon of desire, with its cycle of wanting and
gratification, hangs on our way of seeing things. We remain in bondage
to desire because we see it as our means to happiness. If we can look
at desire from a different angle, its force will be abated, resulting
in the move towards renunciation. What is needed to alter perception is
something called “wise consideration” (yoniso manasikara). Just
as perception influences thought, so thought can influence perception.
Our usual perceptions are tinged with “unwise consideration” (ayoniso manasikara).
We ordinarily look only at the surfaces of things, scan them in terms
of our immediate interests and wants; only rarely do we dig into the
roots of our involvements or explore their long-range consequences. To
set this straight calls for wise consideration: looking into the hidden
undertones to our actions, exploring their results, evaluating the
worthiness of our goals. In this investigation our concern must not be
with what is pleasant but with what is true. We have to be prepared and
willing to discover what is true even at the cost of our comfort. For
real security always lies on the side of truth, not on the side of
When desire is scrutinized closely, we find that it is constantly shadowed by dukkha. Sometimes dukkha appears as pain or irritation; often it lies low as a constant strain of discontent. But the two — desire and dukkha
— are inseparable concomitants. We can confirm this for ourselves by
considering the whole cycle of desire. At the moment desire springs up
it creates in us a sense of lack, the pain of want. To end this pain we
struggle to fulfill the desire. If our effort fails, we experience
frustration, disappointment, sometimes despair. But even the pleasure
of success is not unqualified. We worry that we might lose the ground
we have gained. We feel driven to secure our position, to safeguard our
territory, to gain more, to rise higher, to establish tighter controls.
The demands of desire seem endless, and each desire demands the
eternal: it wants the things we get to last forever. But all the
objects of desire are impermanent. Whether it be wealth, power,
position, or other persons, separation is inevitable, and the pain that
accompanies separation is proportional to the force of attachment:
strong attachment brings much suffering; little attachment brings
little suffering; no attachment brings no suffering.18
Contemplating the dukkha inherent in desire is one way to
incline the mind to renunciation. Another way is to contemplate
directly the benefits flowing from renunciation. To move from desire to
renunciation is not, as might be imagined, to move from happiness to
grief, from abundance to destitution. It is to pass from gross,
entangling pleasures to an exalted happiness and peace, from a
condition of servitude to one of self-mastery. Desire ultimately breeds
fear and sorrow, but renunciation gives fearlessness and joy. It
promotes the accomplishment of all three stages of the threefold
training: it purifies conduct, aids concentration, and nourishes the
seed of wisdom. The entire course of practice from start to finish can
in fact be seen as an evolving process of renunciation culminating in
Nibbana as the ultimate stage of relinquishment, “the relinquishing of
all foundations of existence” (sabb’upadhipatinissagga).
When we methodically contemplate the dangers of desire and the
benefits of renunciation, gradually we steer our mind away from the
domination of desire. Attachments are shed like the leaves of a tree,
naturally and spontaneously. The changes do not come suddenly, but when
there is persistent practice, there is no doubt that they will come.
Through repeated contemplation one thought knocks away another, the
intention of renunciation dislodges the intention of desire.
The intention of good will opposes the intention of ill will,
thoughts governed by anger and aversion. As in the case of desire,
there are two ineffective ways of handling ill will. One is to yield to
it, to express the aversion by bodily or verbal action. This approach
releases the tension, helps drive the anger “out of one’s system,” but
it also poses certain dangers. It breeds resentment, provokes
retaliation, creates enemies, poisons relationships, and generates
unwholesome kamma; in the end, the ill will does not leave the “system”
after all, but instead is driven down to a deeper level where it
continues to vitiate one’s thoughts and conduct. The other approach,
repression, also fails to dispel the destructive force of ill will. It
merely turns that force around and pushes it inward, where it becomes
transmogrified into self-contempt, chronic depression, or a tendency to
irrational outbursts of violence.
The remedy the Buddha recommends to counteract ill will, especially
when the object is another person, is a quality called in Pali metta. This word derives from another word meaning “friend,” but metta
signifies much more than ordinary friendliness. I prefer to translate
it by the compound “loving-kindness,” which best captures the intended
sense: an intense feeling of selfless love for other beings radiating
outwards as a heartfelt concern for their well-being and happiness. Metta
is not just sentimental good will, nor is it a conscientious response
to a moral imperative or divine command. It must become a deep inner
feeling, characterized by spontaneous warmth rather than by a sense of
obligation. At its peak metta rises to the heights of a brahmavihara, a “divine dwelling,” a total way of being centered on the radiant wish for the welfare of all living beings.
The kind of love implied by metta should be distinguished
from sensual love as well as from the love involved in personal
affection. The first is a form of craving, necessarily self-directed,
while the second still includes a degree of attachment: we love a
person because that person gives us pleasure, belongs to our family or
group, or reinforces our own self-image. Only rarely does the feeling
of affection transcend all traces of ego-reference, and even then its
scope is limited. It applies only to a certain person or group of
people while excluding others.
The love involved in metta, in contrast, does not hinge on
particular relations to particular persons. Here the reference point of
self is utterly omitted. We are concerned only with suffusing others
with a mind of loving-kindness, which ideally is to be developed into a
universal state, extended to all living beings without discriminations
or reservations. The way to impart to metta this universal
scope is to cultivate it as an exercise in meditation. Spontaneous
feelings of good will occur too sporadically and are too limited in
range to be relied on as the remedy for aversion. The idea of
deliberately developing love has been criticized as contrived,
mechanical, and calculated. Love, it is said, can only be genuine when
it is spontaneous, arisen without inner prompting or effort. But it is
a Buddhist thesis that the mind cannot be commanded to love
spontaneously; it can only be shown the means to develop love and
enjoined to practice accordingly. At first the means has to be employed
with some deliberation, but through practice the feeling of love
becomes ingrained, grafted onto the mind as a natural and spontaneous
The method of development is metta-bhavana, the meditation on
loving-kindness, one of the most important kinds of Buddhist
meditation. The meditation begins with the development of
loving-kindness towards oneself.19 It is suggested that one take oneself as the first object of metta
because true loving-kindness for others only becomes possible when one
is able to feel genuine loving-kindness for oneself. Probably most of
the anger and hostility we direct to others springs from negative
attitudes we hold towards ourselves. When metta is directed
inwards towards oneself, it helps to melt down the hardened crust
created by these negative attitudes, permitting a fluid diffusion of
kindness and sympathy outwards.
Once one has learned to kindle the feeling of metta towards oneself, the next step is to extend it to others. The extension of metta
hinges on a shift in the sense of identity, on expanding the sense of
identity beyond its ordinary confines and learning to identify with
others. The shift is purely psychological in method, entirely free from
theological and metaphysical postulates, such as that of a universal
self immanent in all beings. Instead, it proceeds from a simple,
straightforward course of reflection which enables us to share the
subjectivity of others and experience the world (at least
imaginatively) from the standpoint of their own inwardness. The
procedure starts with oneself. If we look into our own mind, we find
that the basic urge of our being is the wish to be happy and free from
suffering. Now, as soon as we see this in ourselves, we can immediately
understand that all living beings share the same basic wish. All want
to be well, happy, and secure. To develop metta towards others,
what is to be done is to imaginatively share their own innate wish for
happiness. We use our own desire for happiness as the key, experience
this desire as the basic urge of others, then come back to our own
position and extend to them the wish that they may achieve their
ultimate objective, that they may be well and happy.
The methodical radiation of metta is practiced first by directing metta
to individuals representing certain groups. These groups are set in an
order of progressive remoteness from oneself. The radiation begins with
a dear person, such as a parent or teacher, then moves on to a friend,
then to a neutral person, then finally to a hostile person. Though the
types are defined by their relation to oneself, the love to be
developed is not based on that relation but on each person’s common
aspiration for happiness. With each individual one has to bring his (or
her) image into focus and radiate the thought: “May he (she) be well!
May he (she) be happy! May he (she) be peaceful!”20
Only when one succeeds in generating a warm feeling of good will and
kindness towards that person should one turn to the next. Once one
gains some success with individuals, one can then work with larger
units. One can try developing metta towards all friends, all neutral persons, all hostile persons. Then metta
can be widened by directional suffusion, proceeding in the various
directions — east, south, west, north, above, below — then it can be
extended to all beings without distinction. In the end one suffuses the
entire world with a mind of loving-kindness “vast, sublime, and
immeasurable, without enmity, without aversion.”
The intention of harmlessness is thought guided by compassion (karuna),
aroused in opposition to cruel, aggressive, and violent thoughts.
Compassion supplies the complement to loving-kindness. Whereas
loving-kindness has the characteristic of wishing for the happiness and
welfare of others, compassion has the characteristic of wishing that
others be free from suffering, a wish to be extended without limits to
all living beings. Like metta, compassion arises by entering
into the subjectivity of others, by sharing their interiority in a deep
and total way. It springs up by considering that all beings, like
ourselves, wish to be free from suffering, yet despite their wishes
continue to be harassed by pain, fear, sorrow, and other forms of dukkha.
To develop compassion as a meditative exercise, it is most effective
to start with somebody who is actually undergoing suffering, since this
provides the natural object for compassion. One contemplates this
person’s suffering, either directly or imaginatively, then reflects
that like oneself, he (she) also wants to be free from suffering. The
thought should be repeated, and contemplation continually exercised,
until a strong feeling of compassion swells up in the heart. Then,
using that feeling as a standard, one turns to different individuals,
considers how they are each exposed to suffering, and radiates the
gentle feeling of compassion out to them. To increase the breadth and
intensity of compassion it is helpful to contemplate the various
sufferings to which living beings are susceptible. A useful guideline
to this extension is provided by the first noble truth, with its
enumeration of the different aspects of dukkha. One
contemplates beings as subject to old age, then as subject to sickness,
then to death, then to sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair,
and so forth.
When a high level of success has been achieved in generating
compassion by the contemplation of beings who are directly afflicted by
suffering, one can then move on to consider people who are presently
enjoying happiness which they have acquired by immoral means. One might
reflect that such people, despite their superficial fortune, are
doubtlessly troubled deep within by the pangs of conscience. Even if
they display no outward signs of inner distress, one knows that they
will eventually reap the bitter fruits of their evil deeds, which will
bring them intense suffering. Finally, one can widen the scope of one’s
contemplation to include all living beings. One should contemplate all
beings as subject to the universal suffering of samsara, driven
by their greed, aversion, and delusion through the round of repeated
birth and death. If compassion is initially difficult to arouse towards
beings who are total strangers, one can strengthen it by reflecting on
the Buddha’s dictum that in this beginningless cycle of rebirths, it is
hard to find even a single being who has not at some time been one’s
own mother or father, sister or brother, son or daughter.
To sum up, we see that the three kinds of right intention — of
renunciation, good will, and harmlessness — counteract the three wrong
intentions of desire, ill will, and harmfulness. The importance of
putting into practice the contemplations leading to the arising of
these thoughts cannot be overemphasized. The contemplations have been
taught as methods for cultivation, not mere theoretical excursions. To
develop the intention of renunciation we have to contemplate the
suffering tied up with the quest for worldly enjoyment; to develop the
intention of good will we have to consider how all beings desire
happiness; to develop the intention of harmlessness we have to consider
how all beings wish to be free from suffering. The unwholesome thought
is like a rotten peg lodged in the mind; the wholesome thought is like
a new peg suitable to replace it. The actual contemplation functions as
the hammer used to drive out the old peg with the new one. The work of
driving in the new peg is practice — practicing again and again, as
often as is necessary to reach success. The Buddha gives us his
assurance that the victory can be achieved. He says that whatever one
reflects upon frequently becomes the inclination of the mind. If one
frequently thinks sensual, hostile, or harmful thoughts, desire, ill
will, and harmfulness become the inclination of the mind. If one
frequently thinks in the opposite way, renunciation, good will, and
harmlessness become the inclination of the mind (MN 19). The direction
we take always comes back to ourselves, to the intentions we generate
moment by moment in the course of our lives.
The great Buddhist commentator Buddhaghosa traces the Pali word “jhana” (Skt. dhyana) to two verbal forms. One, the etymologically correct derivation, is the verb jhayati,
meaning to think or meditate; the other is a more playful derivation,
intended to illuminate its function rather than its verbal source, from
the verb jhapeti meaning to burn up. He explains: “It burns up
opposing states, thus it is jhana” (Vin.A. i, 116), the purport being
that jhana “burns up” or destroys the mental defilements preventing the
developing the development of serenity and insight.
In the same passage Buddhaghosa says that jhana has the characteristic mark of contemplation (upanijjhana).
Contemplation, he states, is twofold: the contemplation of the object
and the contemplation of the characteristics of phenomena. The former
is exercised by the eight attainments of serenity together with their
access, since these contemplate the object used as the basis for
developing concentration; for this reason these attainments are given
the name “jhana” in the mainstream of Pali meditative exposition.
However, Buddhaghosa also allows that the term “jhana” can be extended
loosely to insight (vipassana), the paths and the fruits on the
ground that these perform the work of contemplating the characteristics
of things the three marks of impermanence, suffering and non-self in
the case of insight, Nibbana in the case of the paths and fruits.
In brief the twofold meaning of jhana as “contemplation” and
“burning up” can be brought into connection with the meditative process
as follows. By fixing his mind on the object the meditator reduces and
eliminates the lower mental qualities such as the five hindrances and
promotes the growth of the higher qualities such as the jhana factors,
which lead the mind to complete absorption in the object. Then by
contemplating the characteristics of phenomena with insight, the
meditator eventually reaches the supramundane jhana of the four paths,
and with this jhana he burns up the defilements and attains the
liberating experience of the fruits.
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