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Early development of Buddhism


Late Venerable Prof. Walpola Sri Rahula Maha Thera (1907-1997) is considered to be one of the top Sri Lankan intellectuals in the 20th century. In 1964, he became the Professor of History and Religions at Northwestern University, thus becoming the first monk to hold a professorial chair in the western world. He also once held the Vice-Chancellor position of Sri Jayewardenepura University. He has written extensively about Buddhism in English, French and Sinhalese. This essay observes the early development of Buddhism with reference to three councils.


The Buddha was born in the 6th Century BC. After attaining Enlightenment at 35 until his Mahaparinibbana at 80, he spent his life preaching and teaching. He was certainly one of the most energetic man who ever lived: for forty-five years he taught and preached day and night, sleeping for only about 2 hours a day.

The Buddha spoke to all kinds of people and His teachings were tailored to the experiences, levels of understanding and mental capacity of his audience. What he taught was called Buddha Vacana, word of the Buddha. There was nothing called Theravada or Mahayana at that time.

After establishing the Order of monks and nuns, the Buddha laid down certain disciplinary rules called the Vinaya for the guidance of the Order. The rest of his teachings were called the Dhamma which included his discourses, sermons to monks, nuns and lay people.

The First Council

Three months after the Buddha's Mahaparinibbana, his immediate disciples convened a council at Rajagaha. Maha Kassapa, the most respected and elderly monk, presided at the Council.

Two very important personalities specialised in the two different areas, Dhamma and Vinaya, were present: Ven. Ananda, the closest constant companion and disciple of the Buddha for 25 years, and Ven Upali with the sharp memory Vinaya rules.

Only Dhamma and Vinaya were recited at the First Council. Though there were no differences of opinion on the Dhamma (no mention of the Abhidhamma) there was some discussion about the Vinaya rules. Before the Buddha's Parinibbana, he had told Ananda that if the Sangha wished to amend or modify some minor rules, they could do so.

But on that occasion Ananda was so overpowered with grief because of the Buddha's impending death and it did not occur to him to ask the Master what the minor rules were. As the Council members were unable to agree as to what constituted the minor rules, Ven. Kassapa finally ruled that no disciplinary rule laid down by the Buddha should be changed, and no new ones should be introduced. No intrinsic reason was given. Ven. Kassapa said one thing: "If we changed the rules, people will say that Ven. Gotama's

disciples changed the rules even before his funeral fire has ceased burning."

At the Council, the Dhamma was divided into various parts and each part was assigned to an Elder and his pupils to commit to memory. The Dhamma was then passed on from teacher to pupil orally. The Dhamma was recited daily by groups of people who often crosscheck with each other to ensure that no omissions or additions were made.

The Second Council

One hundred years later, the Second Council was held to discuss some Vinaya rules.

There was no need to change the rules three months after the Parinibbana of the Buddha because little or no political, economic or social changes took place during that short interval. But one hundred years later, some monks saw the need to change certain minor rules. The orthodox monks said that nothing should be changed while the others insisted on modifying some rules, Finally, a group of monks left the Council and formed the Mahasanghika - the Great Community. Even though it was called the Mahasanghika, it was not known as Mahayana, And in the Second Council, only matters pertaining to the Vinaya were discussed and no controversy about the Dhamma is reported.

The Third Council

In the 3rd Century BC, during the time of Emperor Asoka, the Third Council was held to discuss the differences of opinion among the monks of different sects. At this Council the differences were not confined to the Vinaya but were also connected with the Dhamma. At the end of this Council, the President of the Council, Ven. Moggaliputta Tissa, compiled a book called the Kathavatthu refuting the heretical, false views and theories held by some sects. The teaching approved and accepted by this Council was known as Theravada. The Abhidhamma Pitaka was included at this Council.

After the Third Council, Asoka's son, Ven. Mahinda, brought the Tripitaka to Sri Lanka, along with the commentaries that were recited at the Third Council. The texts brought to Sri Lanka were preserved until today without losing a page. The texts were written in Pali which was based on the Magadhi spoken by the Buddha.


Advancing the Mind


Assume that a broker has taken you to see a house. Vithakka or the "Initial Application" is the mental state which features the Jhana consciousness by directing the mind towards the object just like the broker direct you to the house.


You may have experienced a situation where you are looking at a particular object continuously with a blank mind. Your mind would have registered that object thoroughly, such a way that you would see that object even with closed eyes. Sometimes this situation would have gone further that you would conceptualise this object just as a mode of an appearance. An aspirant who would be meditating to improve and purify the mind would follow a similar procedure to achieve higher states of mind.

Developing Jhanas (Dhyana) through Meditation

54 types of consciousness pertaining to sensuous-sphere (kamavachara chiththas) would arise depending on the acts one would perform. The one who has engaged in many good deeds and developed many moral consciousnesses (kusala chiththas) and is not interested in ordinary sense desires would start meditating (Bhavana) to improve and purify the mind. The first step of such a person is to engage in "Meditations of Concentration" (Samatha Bhavana). The one who is thorough with samatha bhavana would proceed to "Meditation of things as they truly are" (Vipassana Bhavana) which leads to the Enlightenment (Nirvana).

By samatha bhavana one could develop higher mental states which are known as "Jhanas" (Dhyana). Jhana is so called because it thinks closely of an object or because it burns those adverse things (hindrances). Jhana is also willful concentration of an object.

One, who expects to develop Jhanas, would select a "Preliminary Object" which is called the Parikamma Nimiththa (There are defined objects to select as parikamma nimiththa and instructions of using these objects are also available in the texts written on Meditation). Then the aspirant would intently concentrate on this object by excluding all the other thoughts from mind. On progress meditator would come to a situation where the object could be visualised even with closed eyes. This "Visualised Image" is known as the Uggaha Nimiththa. By further concentrating on this visualised object the meditator would come to a situation where s/he would see just a mode or appearance or a perception of the object which is a "Conceptualised Image" known as Patibhaga Nimiththa.

When he continually concentrates on this abstract concept he is in possession of what is called "Proximate Concentration", the Upachara Samadhi which temporarily inhibits him from the Five Hindrances to Nirvana, (Pancha Neewarana): Sense-desire (Kamachchandha), Hatred (Vyapadha), Sloth and Torpor (Thina-Midhdha), Restlessness and Brooding (Uddachcha-Kukkuchcha) and Doubt (Vivhikichcha) (these hindrances will be discussed in detail in future). Then he gains the "Ecstatic Concentration" or the Appana Samadhi and becomes enwrapped with the serenity of Jhana.

Form-Sphere Moral Consciousness (Kamavachara Kusala Chiththas) - 5

The above state of Jhana is achieved by concentrating on a form of object. Therefore, the first category of Jhana, developed by an aspirant is called "Rupa Jhanas". All the Jhana states are of moral consciousness. Those who develop Rupa Jhana, if died with that Jhana state, would be born in any of the 16 types of Form worlds (Rupa lokas/bhavas) which was mentioned in the second episode of this series titled "The Worlds we live". Therefore these chiththas are called "Form-Sphere Moral Consciousness" (Rupavachara Kusala Chiththas) and there are 5 types of them as below;

1. Vithakka-Vichara-Prithi-Suka Ekaggatha sahitha Patamajjana Kusala Chiththa

First Jhana Moral consciousness together with initial application-sustained application-joy-happiness and one-pointedness

2. Vichara-Prithi-Suka Ekaggatha sahitha Dhutiyajjana Kusala Chiththa Second Jhana Moral consciousness together with sustained application-joy-happiness and one-pointedness

3. Prithi-Suka Ekaggatha sahitha Thatiyajjana Kusala Chiththa

Third Jhana Moral consciousness together with joy-happiness and one-pointedness.

4. Suka Ekaggatha sahitha Chathuththajjana Kusala Chiththa

Fourth Jhana Moral consciousness together with happiness and one-pointedness

5. Upekkha Ekaggatha sahitha Panchamajjana Kusala Chiththa

Fifth Jhana Moral consciousness together with equanimity and one-pointedness

Featuring mental states of Jhana

Assume that a broker has taken you to see a house. Vithakka or the "Initial Application" is the mental state which features the Jhana consciousness by directing the mind towards the object just like the broker direct you to the house. Once you are directed to the house you will move around the house and investigate. Similarly Vichara or the "Sustained Application" is the mental state which features the Jhana consciousness by moving around the object and examining it.

The mental state of Prithi or the "Joy" featured in Jhanas doesn't imply the ordinary meaning of joy. It is a pleasurable interest experienced in the Jhana. Sukha or the "Happiness" is the mental state of enjoying the interest created by prithi on the object. All the Rupa Jhanas are developed as a result of extensive concentration on an object. Therefore "One-pointedness" or the Ekaggatha is common to all rupavachara Jhanas.

The first Jhana is developed featured with all the above mental states. One who practices the first Jhana would get the capability to improve his state based on the first Jhana where he could achieve sustained application without initial application. Therefore the second Jhana is achieved by eliminating vithakka. When it comes to the third Jhana the aspirant eliminates vichara. In the fourth Jhana prithi is also eliminated and by the time of developing the fifth Jhana the aspirant has come to a standard where he could view the object in balanced mind.

Therefore the fifth Jhana is featured with Upekkha or the "Equanimity". This upekkha found in Jhanas is not the ordinary neutral or indifference feeling found in other Kamavachara Chiththas.

This mental state of upekkha is achieved by strong willpower and willful concentration of the object. It is the ability to view the object with a discriminative knowledge. As per this observation of the development of more advanced type of Upekkha it is quite understandable that in proceeding along with these Jhanas, the aspirant is approaching towards Nirvana, the sate which would understand everything in balance as they truly are.

Form-Sphere Resultant Consciousness (Rupavachara Vipaka Chiththas) - 5

Corresponding to the five types of Rupavachara kusala chiththas there are five types of "Form-Sphere Resultant Consciousness" (Rupavachara Vipaka Chiththas) which would arise when the aspirant is born in form spheres (rupa lokas). The corresponding resultant consciousness for the first form-sphere moral consciousness is Vithakka-Vichara-Prithi-Sukha Ekaggatha sahitha Patamajjana Vipaka Chiththa and so on.

Form-Sphere Functional Consciousness

(Rupavachara Vipaka Chiththas) - 5

Arhaths and Buddhas also develop these Jhanas. Those Jhanas are called "Form-Sphere Functional Consciousness" (Rupavachara Kriya Chiththas). These five types of functional consciousness start from Vithakka-Vichara-Prithi-Sukha Ekaggatha sahitha Patamajjana Kriya Chiththa and continued same as above.


It should be noted that the above explained chiththas described in Abhidhamma are pertaining to the higher mental states of a person can develop. However, it should not be difficult to understand the possibility of such mental states based on the starting example of this episode.

Another important remark is that presenting the exact English terminology for this branch of doctrine is a quite cumbersome activity. An effort is taken here to simplify the doctrine without distorting the exact meaning and the readers are invited for comments and questions for any clarifications.

Most Ven. Kotugoda Dhammawasa An epitome of principled life

The Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammawasa Anunayaka has been appointed as the Supreme Patriot Chairperson of the entire Amarapura Chapter and the act of appointment was presented to the Most Reverened on October 3.

Most Venerable
Kotugoda Dhammawasa Anunayaka

Born on January 26, 1933, in Kotugoda, Gampaha, to the family of Mr and Mrs E H Rodrigo, the Venerable Anunayaka received the primary education at the Buddhist Mixed school (presently Rahula Vidyalaya). In 1948 he got into the community of Sangha under the tutelage of the late Most Venerable Unawatune Dhammapala. As a a Buddhist monk, the Venerable Anunayaka commenced his education at the Paramadhamma Chethiya Pirivena , Maligakanda, Colombo under the guidance of the late Most Venerable Valane Sattissara, late Most Venerable Maho Sumedha and late Most Venerable Rajakeeya Panditha Palannaruwe Wimaladhamma. The English education was received at Padhanagara Dharmadutha Vidyalaya, Maradana and Pembroke College, Colombo 7.

On July 10, 1954, he received the higher ordination at the Udakukkhepa Seema Malaka in Kalu Ganga under the patronage of the late Most Venerable Agga Maha Panditha Beruwala Siriniwasa Mahanayaka. As the Buddha instructed the first five disciples 'Charatha Bhikkhawe Charikan, Bahujana hithaya, Bahujana sukhaya', the Venerable began his humanitarian service thereafter.

The scholarly service in relation to his religious activities has been numerous. Since 1965 he was instrumental in initiating the issuing of the Dhamma leaflets each months by the Baudhdhodaya Sangamaya at Dharmapalaramaya, Mount Lavinia. He has contributed a large number of scholarly articles to the newspapers such as Dawasa, Budusarana, Dinamina, Divayina, Lankadeepa and the journals such as Rasawahini, Sinhala Baudhdhaya, and Tharaka.

The emperor Asoka understood the futility of Dig Vijaya and decided to enlighten the world and himself through the practice of Dharma Vijaya. So many individual understand the necessity of a religious life after inflicting heavy losses on others and him. The Anunayaka has been the most impeccable in playing a vital role of a religious ambassador.

The most Venerable Anunayaka began his Dharmadutha activities and it was extended to the countries like India, Nepal, Japan, USA, Pakistan, Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Russia, Mongolia, Siberia and Singapore. Both at home and abroad he has been a versatile speaker sharing his knowledge through immaculate preaching.

After the demise of the teacher the Anunayaka Thero has developed the temple Dharmapalaramaya at Mount Lavinia and established Upali Dharmashramaya, Kataramaga and Sri Lankaramaya in Myanmar. Apart from these the Anunayaka serves as the patron of Buddhist and Pali University in Sri Lanka, Baudhyodaya Sangamaya, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and All Ceylon Buddhist Congress.

The Anunayaka has received the following honourary degrees and titles for the services rendered towards the betterment of the humanity; the Adhikarana Sanghanayaka of Amarapura Chapter, the Anunayaka and the Registrar of Amarapura Chapter, the Joint Secretary and the General Secretary of Amarapura Chapter and the Agga Maha Panditha Honrary Degree from Myanmar. Other than committing his own life and time for the enlightenment of the humanity the Anunayaka has gifted a large number of pupil monks to the Buddha Sasana to continue his religious services. There are pupil monks from Nepal, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Denmark and Sri Lanka.

All those who hope a better world join their hands unanimously to wish the Anunayaka a long and a healthy life to continue all the services that he has been continuing so far. Being an asset to the entire world my the blessings of the Noble Triple Gems be with the Anunayaka always: 'Sukhi Dighayuko Bhava'.


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