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Buddhist Spectrum

'Service to humanity is the worship of the Buddha'

Can Buddhist thought contribute to contemporary psychological counselling?:

(The 17th memorial lecture in honour of Prof. K. N. Jayatilleke in Sinhala)

Reviewed by Prof. Emeritus Jayadeva Tilakasiri

It is said that at least one out of eight Sri Lankans in our contemporary society is subject to some sort of mental problem or disorder. Therefore, it is obviously a grave problem that we cannot overlook. Consequently, it is our duty to come out with some proper ways and methods to meet this unfortunate situation.

The number of psychiatrists and counsellors do not seem to be sufficient to face this problem. Psychiatry and psychology, subjects we have received from the West, are fast developing and trying to solve these problems though new techniques.

Their therapeutic techniques are followed in both sectors, Government as well as private. Under such a situation it is quite relevant to find out whether Buddhism can participate and contribute in the attempt to serve those who are suffering.

Dr. Senerat Wijayasundara graduated from the Peradeniya University, specialising in Philosophy under the late Professor K. N. Jayatilleke in whose memory this lecture was delivered. He serves as a Lecturer in the Dept. of Philosophy of Kelaniya University for ten years teaching Philosophy and Psychology.

Later he joined the editorial staff of the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism. In addition to the depth of learning of Theravada Buddhism, he has also gained a good grasp of Mahayana and Tantrayana aspects of Buddhism as well.

Together with his first field of study he devoted his time to the study of Psychotherapy and Counselling and attended the courses in these subjects in India, Singapore and Malaysia.

With that background and learning he is trying to understand how far Buddhism can contribute to bring solace to those who are subject to serious types of mental problems and disorders.

This memorial lecture is one such attempt he has made. In this lecture he has mentioned fourteen cases from Buddhist texts where we find instances similar to those in the practice of Psychotherapy and Counselling. But he has dealt with two instances in some detail.

The first instance is the one when the Buddha delivered His first sermon to a not very sympathetic audience. The other is where, lying on His death-bed, just before Enlightenment, the Buddha found time to clarify a controversial problem posed by a wandering monk, Subadda by name.

These can be taken as two illuminating examples that the Buddha efficiently dealt with.

In the course of the discussion the speaker also introduced six fundamentals on which the Buddhist attitude to mental problems and disorders can be built up.

These six points are: (1) Impermanence, (2) Suffering, (3) Soullessness, (4) Dependent Origination, (5) Free-will and (6) three factors leading to rebirth i.e. sexual union of parents, mother at the proper period and the arrival of the Gandhabba (the presence of linking Consciousness).

On this topic he has quoted the well-known Cambridge Psychologist, Robert H. Thouless. In his booklet, Christianity and Buddhism, Thouless while accepting "Buddhism is a system of psychotherapy also concerned with relief from emotional burdens not only for the sake of this life but also for the sake of future lives in which these burdens may have to be carried if they are not got rid of now."

If we consider the problems and difficulties that arise today in various ways the complex nature is quite apparent.

Therefore, counselling as a service is of immense value in finding solutions and obtaining guidance. Despite the presence of shortcomings, mental therapy is quite beneficial to human beings.

Educational institutes as well as offices and public companies should make use of this medium of counselling in their activities and thus achieve harmony and effective management.

Dr. Wijayasundara must be congratulated in his attempt to look into Buddhist thought and show the public the nature of the material that Buddhist literature contains on the subject.

The Speaker's message is clear in that he called for the practice of the Buddhist methods and their application in living and yearning for their revival among the educated people.

Such an attempt on their part would no doubt lead to the development and widening for them for the good of humanity.

At the end of the lecture he has aptly quoted the Indian Brahmin Buddhist, Ramachandra Bharati as follows: "Service to humanity is the worship of the Buddha".


Maha Dhammakaya Cetiya where millions congregate seeking inner peace

Maha Dhammakaya Cetiya is a dome Stupa built in the period 1995-2000 and enshrines a total of one million Buddha images (both inside and out). The construction is a sacred meeting place for open-air congregations. The surrounding grounds are designed to accommodate one million people for meditation, prayer or the study of Dhamma.

The Great Dhammakaya assembly hall

The Great Dhammakaya assembly hall is a two storey multipurpose structure. Believed to be the largest of its type in the world, the structure covers an area of over forty acres (312984 m2) and has (540376 m2) of utilizable space. The hall is used for moral training, ceremonies and meditation. It is a covered venue large enough to accommodate 300,000 people.

History of Dhammakaya Foundation

The Dhammakaya Foundation is a non-governmental, non-profit, non-political organisation founded in 1970 by the Nun Khun Yay Maharatna Upasika Chandra. At its headquarters and branches around the world, foundation introduces meditation and ethics to the public as a way to promote world peace through inner peace.


Front view of the world’s largest Dhamma assembly hall of Maha Dhammakaya Shrine.

The fundamental goal of the Dhammakaya Foundation is to initiate and perpetuate lasting world peace by facilitating a higher level of the human mind.

In 1986, the Foundation became a member of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, in 1990 of the World Fellowship of Buddhist youth and in 1986 the United Nations - accredited Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) associated with the Department of Public Information.

The Most Venerable Luang Phaw Dhammajayo (Chaiboon Suthipol) President of Dhammakaya Foundation points out: "All people are from one family, we breathe the same air, drink water under a single sky, behold the same sun, moon and stars. We will live together in this world from our birth until the last second of our lives."

The Most Venerable Luang Phaw Dhammajayo made this statement with his heart replete with goodwill for the people of the world. No matter what their nationalities, languages, religions, or ethnicities, he has great diligence in leading the people of the world to discover true inner happiness by meditation.

When the human mind is full of happiness and compassion, world peace will truly arise.

Phrarajbhavanavisudh (Luang Phaw Dhammajayo) was born Chaiboon Suthipol of April 1944. Reading an article "Vippassana Bantuengsarn" that spoke about the advantages in meditation of Khun Mae Acariya Chandra, an expert in the Dhammakaya meditation, propelled Chaiboon to want to learn meditation at the temple.


Late Acariya Mae Upasika Chandra, founder of the Wat Phara Maha Dhammakaya.

In April of 1969, Chaiboon Suthipol graduated with a Bachelor's degree, with a major in Agricultural Economics. After receiving his degree, he immediately informed his father of his desire to ordain himself as a Bhikkhu.

August 27, 1969, was an auspicious day as Mr. Caiboon Suthipol donned the saffron robe and became a monk, as he had wished, at the chapel of Temple of Wat pak Nam. He received the monastic title 'Dhammajayo', which means 'The victor through Dhamma'.

In his new life as a monk, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo was very disciplined in the monastic codes of conduct and studied very hard in the Buddha's teachings. During all of this, he also gave sermons to lay people at meditation centre in Wat Pak Nam temple instead of Acharya Khun Yay on a regular basis.

The Meditation Centre in Wat Pak Nam became so overcrowded that people had to sit in the streets to be able to listen to his sermons. It was now time for the community to relocate to a bigger area.


Wat Phara Maha Dhammakaya Golden Stupa with a million gold plated Buddha images.

It was up to Luang Phaw Dhammajayo's team which consisted of special young men and women who had comprehensive knowledge of the world and the perseverance to complete any tasks given.

In 1970 was the ground breaking day in the construction of Wat Phra Dhammakaya. The land of 80 acres was donated by Khun Ying Prayad Visuddhadhibodhi. The team helped each other to build the temple giving all their efforts, working hard with their utmost capability, willing to devote their life for the benefit of Buddhism.

Spreading peace with the great faith of humankind

Wat Phra Dhammakaya (Wat means temple) rapidly grew, along with hearts and minds of its supporters which had grown in great numbers throughout the years. So much that the original 80 acres were not large enough to accommodate the community and therefore its size was increased to 1,000 acres for the purpose of serving as a World Meditation Centre.

The very first meditation hall, accommodating only 500 people (named 'Catummaharajika'), was filled to its capacity in only 5 years.

Therefore, the 12,000 capacity thatch roofed meditation hall was built, but in only a short period of time, the same thing happened, over-filling with people. Then, it was decided that the community would need a much larger staging area for meditation and ceremonies.

Therefore, the 'Dhammakaya Assembly Hall' with the help of all of its supporters, was built within an area of 500,000 square metres and able to host 300,000 people. Even to this day, building is still being expanded further. However, it has been utilised as the main staging area for all religious ceremonies since 1996.

Having seen the number of supporters regularly increase, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo decided to build the next phase, which consisted of the 'Maha Dhammakaya Cetiya' (The Golden Pagoda) and the Grand Meditation Stadium both designed to last for a thousand years and have an area of 1,000,000 square metres in order to serve 1,000,000 monks and lay people from around the world who will regularly come for meditation in the future.

The day 1,000,000 people from all over the world come to meditate at Maha Dhammakaya Cetiya will be the day that the people of the world will stop think and ask themselves how so many people have gathered in one place to meditate.

The images that they see will embody themselves into their hearts and they will strive to find the answer for themselves.

Beside the Maha Dhammakaya Cetiya structure built, in order to pay our highest gratitude to the great Teacher, the memorial hall of Phramongkolthepmuni and the memorial hall of Khun Yey Acariya Maharattana Upasika Chandra Konnokyoong are used as a gathering place for meditation and for all people to come and pay homage.

Around the same time, Khun Yay Acariya Maharattana Upasika Chandra's dinning hall was built in order to allow supporters to offer food to the community of monks.

Currently, Wat Phara Dhammakaya is a centre for Buddhists all over Thailand and it is also one of the main staging areas for major Buddhist ceremonies worldwide. Success was possible because of the great devotion and dedication of Luang Phaw Dhammajayo and his team.

For this reason, he was bestowed a High Royal of the monastic 'Raj level' by His Majesty the King of Thailand to be recognised as a leading monk in meditation with the title 'Phrarajbhavnaavisudh' in 1996.

The utmost gratitude towards the Teacher, Upasika Chandra, the founder of Wat Phra Dhammakaya

Every success and achievement of the Wat Phra Dhammakaya, was possible because there was a significant and important figure behind it all.

This was Khun Yay, the teacher who provided Luang Phaw Dhammajayo with the wisdom and illumination in Dhamma, and the support and encouragement to perform meritorious deeds until her very last breath. Khun Yay's tremendous significance is immeasurable.

Therefore, it was only fitting that Luang Phaw Dhammajayo extolled her magnificence with this title: "Our great Teacher Khun Yay Maharathana Upasika Chandra, the Founder of Wat Phra Dhammakaya".

Khun Yay departed from this world on Sunday the 10th September 2000. With the utmost gratitude and respect the Luang Phaw Dhammajayo had for Khun Yay requested all the monks, novice, upasaka and upasika of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, along with all devotees of Khun Yay worldwide, to join in body and mind in the most perfect and majestic crystal lighting ceremony and cremation held on 3rd February 2002.

The crystal lighting ceremony was the biggest and grandest event ever held at Wat Phra Dhammakaya with an estimated 500,000 participants. It was also the first time that over 100,000 monks and senior monks, from over 30,000 temples throughout Thailand, had ever congregated together, when they attended the cremation ceremony for Khun Yay.

As a way to demonstrate their kindness, monks from many other countries travelled across many miles in order to participate in the ceremony.

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