Life comes to an end Your life has come
to an end now. To the presence of death you are setting out. No halting
place is there for you by the way. Provision too there is none for you.
Mala Vagga - The Dhammapada
The Dhamma is about developing
I read the two-part article 'A Journey of discovery - Model for
developing vipassana nana through two suttas' by Pundit Venerable
Medhananda Thera and Dr. Ron Wijewantha, with increasing dismay. It is
facile and misleading. These notes are not its detail critique.
It is wrong to debate Dhamma but it is necessary to correct
misinterpretations. Here is a tip to the discerning student. Any
exposition that purports to illustrate the Dhamma with diagrams should
be suspect and immediately rejected.
Dhamma Cakka at Sanchi, India
The Dhamma is about developing insight to see things as they actually
are. No one can draw insight. The Buddha never used diagrams. Early in
the training of disciples, the Buddha uses the word sampajanna,
understanding of which is absolutely essential to make progress.
Sampajanna is not 'clear comprehension' as interpreted by the writers.
To comprehend is to understand. Comprehension is the act of
In Dhamma, understanding is panna. Understanding comes after seeing
and entering the path. 'In the wanderer Dighanakha the spotless
immaculate vision of the Dhamma arose: All that is subject to arising is
subject to ceasing.
The wanderer Dighanakha saw the Dhamma, attained the Dhamma,
understood the Dhamma, fathomed the Dhamma...' Disciples are instructed,
in gradual steps, to make effort to lead onwards to full understanding
or parinna. In the Mahavedalla Sutta venerable Sariputta says panna
should be developed and consciousness [vinnana] should be fully
Sampajanna means 'awareness'. In the suttas it is frequently linked
with sati or mindfulness in the compound form 'sati-sampajanna,'
mindfulness-and-awareness. In the Satipatthana Sutta awareness of bodily
actions is included in the section on mindfulness of the body.
Mindfulness is not being scattered-brained whereas awareness is more
precise. It means one should constantly keep or watch of oneself, be
always under observation, not letting go one's actions or feelings, or
'Here, monks, in walking to and fro, in looking aside...eating,
drinking, chewing... feelings as they arise... lyingdown...practice
awareness... This, Ananda, is a mode of recollection that, when
developed and made much of in this way, leads to
There is a common verbal confusion. When our actions become habitual
such as blinking, we call them unconscious actions. There is no such
thing in the Buddha's teaching.
These so-called un-conscious actions are mere movement like trees
swaying in the wind. Conscious actions are deliberate. Thought is
required to perform them and we have to consider them. Considering what
we are doing is awareness. But awareness is generally kept to a minimum
in our daily life when doing routine things in order to get over with
Awareness in Dhamma
Awareness in Dhamma has a different purpose. It is practised to lead
to release or vimutti. The practice of awareness is an absolute
prerequisite for understanding of the essence of the Teaching. The
reason is this.
The Dhamma is not concerned with any particular experience, for
example feeling. We do not require a Buddha to tell us how to overcome
or cope with a headache. We need the Buddha to teach us how to escape
from ALL experience whatsoever.
It is when the general underlying nature of things is seen - dassana,
insight - that we are perhaps able to grasp the universal
characteristics of anicca, dukkha, anatta. No puthujjana can see them
together. If there is insight of all three at once, he immediately
ceases to be puthujjana. He has seen and experienced privately dependent
arising as Dighanakha, nephew of Venerable Sariputta.
The Buddha says he attained enlightenment through two things: ordered
attention and ordered effort. Attention is manasikara or direction of
emphasis. While we can attend to more than one thing at the same time,
we cannot give then equal attention. Intentional intention is thus the
strict definition of intention [cetana] and craving or tanha is a
gratuitous parasite on the structure of cetana.
The parasite is perception of self or sakkayaditthi. Contact or
phassa is contact of things with 'me', 'myself' 'mine'. As misunderstood
widely, phassa is not merely the coming together or confluence of the
eye, visible form and eye-consciousness etc.
Phassanirodha in the arhant is the ceasing of attavadaupadana - the
fundamental holding to a self - and ceasing of the affect of all
sankhara, of all things upon which other things depend. There is now
sankhanirodha also in the arhant. There is vijja or awakening from
nescience to see things as they actually are.
In Buddhist meditation [samadhi yoked evenly with vipassana],
sampajanna is reflexion as opposed to reflection or introspection. In
reflexion, the immediate experience is seen twice. It is merely
observed, merely aware, as for example, the passage of the in-out breath
in anapanasati practice.
Thus the Buddha tells Bahiya, 'When for you in the seen is merely the
seen, then you are not In that; when you are not In that, you are not
From that. When you are not From that, you are neither here, nor there,
nor in between the two.' 'Here' is the internal base, 'there' is the
external base and 'in between the two' is consciousness. [Condensed].
It is the same as when the acrobat Uggasena balancing on top of a
bamboo pole heard the Buddha say, "Let go in front, let go behind, let
go in the middle. "There is no inferential thinking or conceiving. There
is insight or dassana of things as they actually are. It is the end of
dukkha. It is the essence of the Mulapariyaya Sutta - The Root of All
The Buddha often says, 'I tell the seen as the seen, the heard as the
heard, the sensed as the sensed, the cognized as the cognized.' He
speaks from direct perception and knowledge without reference or
monitored or interpreted by a self, of things as they actually are [yathabhutha
nana dassana]. All conceiving from 'I am' [mannana] has ceased.
Defilements in vinnana are deleted. Things streaming into purified
consciousness do not produce contact and affect. There is indifference
or equanimity of unity [upekkha].
We too can achieve upekkha by samadhi and vipassana meditation evenly
yoked together but it is equanimity in diversity of the five senses and
the mind. Note that while there is reflexion in reflection there is no
reflection in reflexion.
This is the essence of sampajanna. Dhamma is practised in the
satisampajanna mode. The Buddha says to practise Dhamma is to think
Dhamma, not non-Dhamma. Dhamma is practised in the satisampajanna mode.
Lesson for Rahula
Lying is such an institutionalized part of modern society it is hard
for many of us to imagine a world without it. The Buddha has a lesson
for His son in this sutra:
Ambalatthikarahulovada Sutta - Lesson for Rahula at Mango Stone
(paraphrased) When Rahula, the Buddha's son, was seven, he set out some
water for his father to wash his feet. Buddha picked up a ladle full of
water and began to wash. He showed His son the ladle with a little bit
of water left in it and said "This is how little worth is left in
someone who isn't ashamed at telling a lie."
Tossing away the little bit of water, He said "What little honor is
left in someone who is not ashamed when telling a lie is tossed away
just like that."
Turning the ladle upside down, He said "What little honor there is in
someone who is not ashamed is turned upside down just like that."
And showing Rahula the empty ladle, He said "What little honor there
is in someone who is not ashamed is empty and hollow just like that."
"A royal elephant going into battle who holds back in the fight
hasn't given of himself fully. But when he gives his all, there is
nothing he will not do.
"The same thing is true of someone who is not ashamed when they tell
a lie: There is no evil he will not do! So train yourself not to lie,
even in jest.
"What do your think a mirror is for?"
"For reflection, sir."
"Just like a mirror, your actions, whether they are physical, verbal,
or mental, should be done with constant reflectiion.
"When you consider doing something, reflect on it: will this
something cause harm to myself or others? If so, stop yourself from
doing it. If not, if it leads to happy consequences, you may feel free
to do it. While you are doing something, reflect on it:
Is this act harming anyone? If so, stop. If not, go ahead. After you
have done something, reflect on what you have done. If it resulted in
harm to yourself or others, confess it to your teacher or companions,
and resolve to restrain yourself in the future. If the act had happy
consequences, then be joyful.
"The same things apply to verbal acts. Before, during, and after you
say something, reflect on it. If it seems that your speech will have or
does have negative consequences, then restrain yourself or, if you are
too late, confess and resolve to do better in the future. If what you
have to say has positive consequences, then go ahead.
"And the same thing applies to mental acts. Reflect on them, before,
during, and after. If a thought has negative consequences, abandon it
or, if it is too late, be ashamed and resolve to improve. If the thought
has positive qualities, then act upon it.
"Before, during, and after, reflect on your behavior, and purify
yourself this way."
Buddhavedu - the 'Buddhagaya'
in South India
The village Buddhavedu (derivative of the Tamil word Buddha Vidu,
village of the Buddha) is situated in the Kanchpiuram district of Tamil
Nadu. Kanchi is a species of trees; the juice of the leaves were used
for colouring cloth during ancient times. Hence this district of
Kanchipura was a settlement of weavers and tailors. Presently,
Kanchpiram sarees are produced in this area on handlooms.
Buddhavedu Samadhi statue. Ven. Mudalakkuliye Ratanajothi Thera
too is in the picture.
The Chinese pilgrim monk Hieun Tsang who visited India in the 7th
century A.D. records in his travel notes that the people of the area
claimed that the Buddha visited this area and hence the village was
called Buddha Vidu and now known as Buddhavedu. Further, Tamil Nadu
history attests that the Buddha visited this area and preached the
Dhamma. The Buddha statue excavated in this area, confirms that it
belongs to the Chola - Pallava period of sculpture, and is of
significant beauty and splendour.
Ven. Mudalakkuliye Ratanajothy Thera, now resident at Sri Lanka Maha
Bodhi Society's Pilgrims' Rest, Egmore City, Chennai in order to
preserve the centuries old Buddha statue and revive Buddhism in Tamil
Nadu has established the Buddhavedu Bodhidharma Trust, at 15th Street
C.D.N. Nagar, Nerkundram, Chennai, 600 107 India) Tele 0091 2378 0588;
E-mail: [email protected]) and its Managing Trustee is V. John
The Buddhavedu Samadhi Buddha statue is seven kms from Sri Lanka Maha
Bodhi Society Pilgrims Rest, Egmore City, Chennai towards Kunratur city
off Porur Junction.
Similar to Buddha Gaya in Northern India Buddhavedu was the
Buddhagaya of South India. In the distant past this area was a
flourishing Buddhist settlement. In the periphery of this village are
the historical villages such as Mangadu, Kovoor, Kunratur, Pallavaram
and Munram. Kattalai was the principal village. The presence of caves at
Pallavaram indicates that Arhants resided in these caves. A Buddha
statue found at Mangudave is now at the Chennai Museum.
The meanings of the village names Rendan Kattalai, Munram Kattalai
etc., indicate that these villages were grants made by kings for the
sustenance of viharas and the resident bhikkhus. Buddha Vedu being
located between these 'viharagamas' (Royal Village Grants) is proof that
these villages were supportive of the main shrine and monastery at
The slab inscription excavated in this area is now deposited at the
Chennai Museum. As per this ephigrapical record of the 10th century A.D.
King Chola Raja Raja 1, who had his capital at Tanjore, granted the
revenue of these villages to this vihara. During the reign of Konerin
Meyikonda Sundara Pandya (1251-1264) this village belonged to the
The inscription also mentions of three Buddha statues and a large
Bodhi tree in this village.
Dhyana Mudra Statue
The Buddhavedu Samadhi statue is datable to Chola period 850-1267
A.D. The Buddha is seated on a lotus flower and of a height of three
feet and width of two feet. Around the head of the statue is the Makara
Torana. The eyes are half closed, ears long (lambakarna) with a gentle
smile invoking a meditative perception in the devotee.
This is one of the most outstanding sculptures of the Chola
The archaeologists in their excavations at Kamachchi Amman Kovil
discovered pre second century B.C. Vihara's remains. During this period
Sankhacharya who lived at Kanchipuram who was also a benefactor of
Buddhism handed over these remnants to the Chennai branch of the
Archaeological Survey of India.
The archaeologist Gopinath who was superintending the excavations
recorded all the details in a niche of the Kamachchi Amman Kovil wall
found a statue of the Buddha, which he recorded in his observations.
It is also recorded in the Mahavamsa, that at the construction of the
Ruwanveli Mahaseya, king Dutugemunu invited Buddhist monks from various
regions. four lakhs, sixty thousand monks under the leadership of
Mahadeva Thera arrived from Pallavaboga region. Pallawa kingdom which
was set up near Krishna river in the third century A.D. was later
shifted to Kanchipuram. Sometimes the area was called Aniur or Kachchi.
Today Kanchipuram is in Tamil Nadu.
Hieun Tsang the Chinese pilgrim who arrived at Kanchipuram during the
rule of Narasinha Varman of the Pallava dynasty (630-668 A.D.) records
that there were around 100 monasteries and bhikkhus aggregating to
10,000. And there were non Buddhist and Jaina monasteries totalling