The mindful end craving
He who delights in subduing evil thoughts, who meditates on ‚Äėthe
loathsomeness‚Äô of the body who is ever mindful - it is he who will
make an end of craving. He will sever Mara‚Äôs bond.
Thanha Vagga - The Dhammapada
Impressions of an International
Embracing a religion to restore self-esteem
At a rally held in Mumbai recently to mark the 50th anniversary of
Dr. K. Ambedkar‚Äôs embracing of Buddhism, a mass conversion of nomadic
tribal community took place. Dr. Ananda W.P. Guruge an international
Buddhist activist who participated in the event as a special guest gives
conversion: In my capacity as Vice-president of the World Fellowship
of Buddhists, President of the World Buddhist University Council, Patron
of the European Buddhist Union and Dean of Academic Affairs of the
University of the West, California, USA, I had the privilege of being
invited to participate as a special guest in the celebration of the
fiftieth anniversary of the conversion to Buddhism of Babasaheb Dr. Bhim
Rao Ambedakar, organised under the leadership of Honourable Ramdas
Athawale, Member of Parliament.
The celebration Committee comprised Ven. Rahul Bodhi Maha Thera,
Working President, Ven. Ayupal Thera Secretary General, Mr.Nishikant
Waghmare Vice-President and International Coordinator, Mr. Vijay Kamble
Treasurer, and Messrs.
Arjun Dangle, and Avinash Kamble, Ms. Kalpana Saroj, Dr.Rajendra
Gavai, Vice-presidents. With my longstanding friendly relationship with
Indian Buddhist leaders and scholars, I expected the event to be a
signal success. But what I saw and experienced in Mumbai on this
occasion exceeded all my expectations.
It was a packed-to-capacity Shanmukhnand Hall at Matunga, with
several hundred saffron-robed Buddhist Monks from various parts of the
Buddhist world and a cross-section of the Buddhist population of
Maharashtra that welcomed the panels of international and national
scholars and activists who participated in a well organised intellectual
activity in the form of a two-day International Conference on ‚ÄúWorld
Peace and Humanistic Buddhism.‚ÄĚ
In one session under the chairmanship of Venerable Galayaye Piyadassi,
MBE, Founder of the International Buddhist Centre UK., it examined ‚ÄúThe
Relevance of Buddhism in 21st Century‚ÄĚ with contributions from Dr.
Ravsaheb Kasbe, Ven. Rahul Bodhi Maha Thera, Dr. Sribudent Chatchai,
Ven.Walpola Piyananda and Ven. Banagala Upatissa.
In another chaired by the renowned economist Dr.Narendra Jadhav, Vice
Chancellor of the University of Pune, Dr. N.G. Meshram, Dr. M.D.
Nalavade, Dr.Krishna Kirwale, Dr. Phra Nicholas Thanissaro, and Prof.
Ramakant Yadav discussed Buddhism and Global Issues from An Ambedkarian
The papers presented were of exceptional quality and the exchange of
views which ensued proved to be most instructive and stimulating. I had
the opportunity to address the Conference during the inaugural session.
I complimented the organisers on their perspicacity to mark the
auspicious occasion with an international conference to evaluate the
magnificent role, which Dr. Ambedkar has played in his exemplary life of
dedication to the good and the welfare of humanity.
I said, ‚ÄúIt was an eminent Sri Lankan Buddhist leader, Dr. Gunapala
Malalasekera, who, in Nepal the land of the Buddha‚Äôs birth in 1956 at
the General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, declared
that Babasaheb Ambedkar was a veritable Bodhisattva. A bodhisattva in
the widely held Buddhist concept is one who enables others to gain
This indeed has been the role of Babasaheb Ambedakr. His influence
over India is as strong today fifty years after his death as it was when
he gave the new nation its Republican Constitution and showed the
depressed castes to regain their human dignity by turning to the noble
teachings of the Buddha.
The land of the Buddha which had barely two lakhs of Buddhists when
it gained independence has an estimated Buddhist population of around
The credit for this great reawakening of Buddhism in India goes to
this great man whose historic conversion to Buddhism is what we are
celebrating today.‚ÄĚ But all my words of deep sentiments proved
inadequate to describe fully what took place the following day at the
It was a sea of heads as far as the eye would reach to the very
periphery of the Racecourse. Clad in white, the vast crowd of several
hundred thousand devotees stood in reverential silence for the moment of
their spiritual rebirth.
Many tens of thousand Dalits and tribals - described constitutionally
as scheduled castes or tribes - representing the most socially
discriminated untouchable communities - sought a new life free of
oppression by adopting the teachings of the Buddha who declared that
action and not birth would make a person an aristocrat or outcaste.
In voices that reverberated for miles, they recited the Pali stanzas
of taking refuge in the Buddhist Triple Gem. The ceremony was presided
over by monks from Sri Lanka, Thailand, USA, UK and India. My eyes
welled with tears spontaneously as I had at no other time in my life had
witnessed such a moving scene of genuine piety and dedication.
The media called it next day a ‚Äúshow of strength.‚ÄĚ If it was so, the
strength that was demonstrated at that moment was the indomitable
strength of the good against evil, of piety against irreligion and human
dignity against all that undermine equality of humanity.
As a student of Indology with special attention to its sociological
and philosophical content, I have been deeply conscious about the most
despicable aspects of untouchability through which millions of people
have been oppressed for generations from attaining their true worth as
But the pangs of suffering that they have gone through had never
become more evident to me than on this solemn occasion when I heard them
directly from persons like Ramdas Athawale and Lakshman Mane whose life
struggle has been to overcome socially imposed obstacles of incredible
Dr. Ambedkar: Part of the crowd that thronged the golden jubilee to
mark Dr. Ambedkar‚Äôs embracing of Buddhism.
I was glad to be present with them to rejoice on this occasion and to
show my solidarity in their chosen way of redeeming themselves. My faith
in India redoubled as I observed the active participation of the
Honourables Chief Minister Deshmukh and his Deputy Patil of the
Maharashtra State and listened to their enthusiastic endorsement of the
social revolution that was in motion.
Mahopasaka S. N. Goenka‚Äôs expose on Buddhist ideals and values was
timely. It was all so inspiring and it could not be otherwise in this
great land of Vedic seers, Upanishadic philosophers, Gautama Buddha,
Jina Mahavira, Caitanya and Mahatma Gandhi.
This time I also had the opportunity to revisiting Pune, the city of
scholars, where fifty-six years ago I was at the Bhandarkar Research
Institute researching for my Ph.D. thesis on the Ramayana. My visit to
the Dhyaneshvar World Peace Centre of the Maharashtra Institute of
Technology to meet with its President Dr. Visvanath Karad was indeed
So was my visit to Pune University where I could meet once more that
most delightful personality Dr. Narendra Jadhav, who arranged for me to
meet the faculty of the Department of Buddhist Studies.
We discussed how the University of the West in California could
cooperate with them to explore ways and means in which Buddhist studies
could be developed to meet the rising demand.
The most significant outcome of this visit were the insights I could
gain from my meeting with Dr. Jadhav. In my twenty-hour return flight to
USA, I read from cover to cover his most illuminating book,
Untouchables, outlining the family history over three generations.
Here Babasaheb Ambedkar is brought to life as the sole inspirer of
his illustrious father and the story of hope, courage, forbearance,
dedication, and perseverance of the family tells all that one should
know to understand why tens of thousand stood a whole day in the summer
sun of Mumbai Racecourse to embrace a religion to restore their
This visit of mine to India has been a life-changing experience. The
redemption of the Indian ‚Äúuntouchables‚ÄĚ is a mission for the entire
Buddhist perception of consumption of liquor
Buddhist perception: Buddhism neither commands, demands nor
prohibits. That is why some people in conventional sense say that
Buddhism is not a religion. However, Buddhism is beyond the conventional
meaning of religion and in its simplest form, it is a way of life.
Buddhism explains and exhorts on the effect of acts of merit (kusala)
and evil (akusala) which are different from virtue (pin) and sin (paw).
It guides and admonishes man to refrain from acts leading to moral
decline, and to cultivate doing things leading to moral fortitude.
It is left to the followers to perceive the effect of an action, and
then to follow it or reject it through conviction. Thus nobody is to
follow anything blindly or forcibly.
When it comes to consumption of liquor, which constitutes the fifth
precept in Buddhism, one on one‚Äôs own volition undertakes to refrain
from taking liquor. Liquor, in Buddhism is divided into two categories,
sura and mera (distilled and fermented alcoholic drinks).
Alcohol itself is no poison or pollution. What is harmful and one
should refrain from is taking it in the form of an alcoholic drink or an
intoxicant. That is why even many of those who are used to take a drink
avoid taking it during the day or when they are engaged in serious and
responsible work. Such is the ill-effect of intoxicating drinks.
Harmful effect of consumption of liquor could result in weakening of
one‚Äôs mental and physical capacity to be mindful of being helpful to
society, family and one himself. According to the Singalovada Sutta,
consumption of liquor is an institute for committing acts of evil and
sin leading to one‚Äôs downfall and degeneration.
They are, (a) loss of wealth, (b) aggravation of aggressive nature
leading to quarrels, (c) becoming susceptible to sickness, (d) being
subjected to increased humiliation, (e) loss of fear for shame and (f)
impairment of capacity to judge events and people.
Within the context of above observation, one may say that if
consumption of liquor itself is no evil, why should not one be modest
and take a drink occasionally. Evil acts can easily develop into evil
habits which one will later fail to give up.
One may take liquor on doctor‚Äôs advice, as a means to increase
appetite, soothe down pain, to celebrate an occasion or to drown a
worry. Whatever excuses one can give in order to justify one‚Äôs habit of
consuming liquor, its inherent evil to bring harmful effects to oneself
and society, remains undiminished.
One must refrain from taking liquor altogether for the simple reason
that it eventually brings his downfall.
One may question that if liquor is such an evil why not we ban it
altogether. Along with a ban, exceptions to the ban will begin to arise
in the form of illicit liquor. Sooner or later the exception will become
Also, the Buddhist practice is that prohibitions are not thrust upon
them, and they have to act on self-discipline. Each person should on his
own be able to realise what is virtue or not.
However, prohibition is good for those who are trained to yield to
pressure and dictates.
We ourselves should realise the danger and the negative effect of
consuming liquor, and refrain from consuming it, through conviction.
Sheer blind following could reduce him to a puppet, robot or a slave.
In Surapana Jathaka, the Buddha having noticed the disgraceful fall
and conduct of a drunken monk, asked the other sober monks there, ‚ÄúIs it
proper to drink that which when drunk steals away a man‚Äôs senses?‚ÄĚ That
was how the Buddha admonished man to refrain from taking liquor.
His mission was moulding man
The prelate the Most Venerable Madihe Pannghaseeha
Maha Nayaka Thera
Birth Anniversary: In the province of the southern territory,
district of Matara in the village of Madihe, where the coconut palms
sway, and the never still ocean runs, in the year of 1913 on the day of
13th June, a fortunate baby was born to parents J.C. Pujithagunawardena
and Bella Anjela Dheerasekera, both parents were of a generation of high
esteem. The father of this little child was a Christian and the mother a
Buddhist. He was named Wilmot - Wilmot Pujithagunawardena.
This little child grew in a home where he got the abundant love of
his parents when the school going age came, he was admitted to St.
Thomas‚Äôs Boys School, Matara where the Principal was Mr. Janz. While in
the classroom or at home, or elsewhere, the thought that circled his
mind was the thought of becoming a Buddha Putra, a bhikkhu. That was his
only dream. At the tender age of thirteen, his dream came true.
The mother who was a noble lady realised the wish of the child, she
did not stand in his way and so was the father. Mother took the son to
the great prelate Weragampita Sri Revatha Thera, the Chief Incumbent of
the Kamburugamuwa Vihara with a sheaf of betel and requested the prelate
to ordain him as a Samanera. So on the 24th June in the year 1926, he
entered the Sasana and was named Madihe Pannghaseeha.
The great prelate, the Most Venerable Revatha Thera was also the
teacher of the Most Venerable Pelane Vajiragnana Thera; thus this young
Samanera Ven. Pannghaseeha, having studied all that a young bhikkhu
could learn under the guidance of Sri Revath Thera, came to the
Vajirarama Temple at Bambalapitiya for further studies.
Under the tutelage of the Most Venerable Pelane Vajiragnana Thera,
the young Samanera mastered the Dhamma.
On the 9th day of June 1933 at Weligama in the vicinity of Pelane,
Samanera Pannghaseeha received Upasampada, the Higher Ordination by his
teacher, Pelane Vajiragnana Thera. During the very first days of his
stay at Vajirarama, he had to undergo many hardships.
There were no rooms as such, no beds. Electricity was unheard of. It
was by candlelight that he studied. In the mornings, with the other
Bhikkhus he went begging for alms. The spare time was spent in cleaning
the surroundings, and the temple. These are the beaming factors that lit
his life and brought about his popularity.
Those who entered the University at that time were learned Bhikhus.
Ven. Madihe Pannghaseeha along with them entered the University. Then he
set on the noble task of performing his duty to the country and the
religion, and for the upliftment of Buddhism. In the year 1951, he set
forth on a peace mission to Nepal and in 1954, participated in the
Dhamma Sangayanava held in Burma.
In 1955, the Most Venerable Pelane Vajiragnana Thera passed away.
With his passing away, the seat that became vacant was filled by the Ven.
Pannghaseeha Thera who was recommended for his cleverness, diligence,
piety and high esteem, and was honoured with the title of Mahanayaka on
the 27th of November 1955 at Vajirarama at Bambalapitiya. He was offered
this title at the time of the Buddha Jayanthi.
Accompanied by a band of pilgrims, both laymen and Bhikkhus he left
the country to participate in the World Buddhist Congress on its fourth
The great prelate, the Most Venerable Pelane Vajiragnana Thera who
founded Vajirarama Temple at Bambalapitiya had the great thought and
wish to mould and train bhikkhus dedicated to service and the Dhamma be
trained here and abroad as missionaries of the Dhamma.
The noble thought that sprung on in the mind of his master was set
forth to success by the Mahanayaka Thera. It was that noble thought,
that gave way for the uphill task of opening of the Bhikkhu Training
Centre at Maharagama.
On the 21st of April 1958 this long cherished dream came true and the
Bhikkhu Training Centre was started at dwelling on a rental basis. At
present the Centre is located at an eleven acre picturesque land. It
contains well equipped buildings where the novice monks and the student
monks are trained for missions abroad. Provisions are made for the
The main aim of this Bhikkhu Centre is to spread the Doctrine - the
Dhamma far and wide. The devotees who observe Sil at the Centre is
enormous in number. exceeding 20,000.
The bhikkhus who come to deliver Dhamma Desana are learned, pious and
of high esteem and also the lay preachers are learned and disciplined.
Renowned physicians in the country, surgeons, paedriaticians,
psychiatrists and medical consultants come to deliver these orations,
which are of great value to the public.
It is the Mahanayaka Thera - Ven. Madihe Pannghaseeha who deserves
praise for all this and more than everything for moulding the Most
Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thera for whom all Buddhists should be ever
grateful. He taught the Buddhist masses especially the youth to observe
and practise Pan Sil.
Another great task performed by the Mahanayaka Thera was sending
Dhamma missions abroad. Venerable Thera was instrumental in establishing
Theravada Vihara in the United States of America with the untiring
efforts of the Sasana Sevaka Samithiya and the then Prime Minister Hon.
Dudley Senanayaka and also with the help of the Sri Lanka Embassy in
In the year 1965 in a Flat in Howard the Temple was founded and today
it lies in the 16th Street, a fully equipped temple in a beautiful
surroundings on a picturesque setting in the vicinity of the ‚ÄúWhite
House‚ÄĚ giving the golden opportunity for the devout Buddhists in America
to worship and pray.
Words cannot simply say the great deeds performed by the Mahanayaka
Thera. His leadership, correct advice and the correct guidance led to
many virtuous programmes.
The great Sil campaigns, The Asarana Sarana Sevaya, The Dharma
Charika, The Campaign against use of alcohol.
The policy that he emphasized most was the policy of mouldsing man.
‚ÄúReform man and the whole world will be reformrd‚ÄĚ. ‚ÄúMINISA HADA RATA
Simplicity was Ven. Thera‚Äôs hallmark. Never did he look for comforts.
The simple life he lived, bears testimony to this.
He was soft spoken. Never did he utter a harsh word, never did he
hurt any one. He could be reached by any one. He treated the haves and
the have-nots alike. He did not fear, or favour.
This tribute is in kindness to the prelate‚Äôs immense generosity, and
loving kindness. May his journey in Samsara be smooth with no grief
until you attain Nirvana, that ultimate bliss.