The Buddha’s influence on Indian life
Gautama the Buddha and Buddhism have made excellent contributions
towards strengthening the Indian Way, which is based on universal
acceptance, particularly in making it dynamic and bringing the common
man into its fold. Buddha’s contribution for taking this way in his
time, when it was a narrow path, cannot be underestimated.
Buddhism’s roots are deep. It is believed that Buddhism existed long
before the birth of Siddhartha Gautama. Buddhist texts say that Gautama
Buddha was one among a thousand awakened to attain Buddhahood. The chain
of Buddhas will continue, with the Maitreya Buddha being the next one to
Access to Buddhism
Siddhartha rose to the stature of the Buddha
Buddhism is an accessible way of life as shown by the Buddhas. By
overcoming negative ideas, a Buddha develops positive virtues and rises
to the stature of being a mentor to the world.
Anyone, by knowing the reality of life, through self-control,
restraint and discipline, and by following the Middle Way, can get
through the journey of life. By continuously doing good acts, he
develops virtues, escapes the bond of sorrows, and attains the stage of
being a Buddha.
Siddhartha Gautama, born in 563 BC, the son of Suddhodana and Queen
Mahamaya of Kapilvastu, belonged to the Ikshavaku family line, which
also gave birth to most of the Jain Tirthankaras - one who achieved
enlightenment through asceticism, becoming a teacher to others - as well
as to the great King Harishchandra and Rama. At the time of Siddhartha’s
birth, social and political conditions were very complicated. People
were victims of atrocities and exploitation.
There was a great void of love and sympathy among people for one
another. Competition and jealousies at their worst dominated human
practices. People were busy with rivalries and conspiracies against one
The religious field had become discriminatory and isolated, and the
centre for achieving self-interest.
At that time, Siddhartha rose to the stature of the Buddha. He, as
per the demand of the time, re-established Ahimsa, the supreme human
value, in different walks of life in the form of Karuna, or compassion.
His unique work added a matchless dimension to the Buddhist
tradition. By making the way of human equality accessible, based on the
ideal of Karuna, he gave new life to the Indian Way.
Strength and intensity
Gautama Buddha’s contribution to the Indian Way and to humanity can
be highlighted in three ways. On the strength of his intense and highly
philosophical research based upon knowledge, logic, and exercise, and
having the four Arya Satyas - sorrow, its cause, its cessation, and the
means of its cessation - in the center, he described the reality of
human life. This was his first great contribution. He clarified to the
suffering world that sorrow was the supreme reality of life.
Desires of sorrow
Birth, disease, old age, death, astonishment, depression, grief,
contact with the unloving, separation from the dear, and the non-fulfilment
of desire are sorrows.
Desiring enjoyment, power, wealth, and the will to live are the
causes of sorrow. Desire and lust give birth to a state of struggle and
conflict, become the source of striving and lead people toward the ocean
Cessation of these desires is the way to become free from sorrow.
Gautama Buddha established the Eightfold Middle Way as the way to free
oneself desire, the cause of sorrow.
His path, besides becoming the Way’s best introduction, proved to be
a milestone of the Way.
Buddhism flourished, affecting millions of Indians and becoming the
basis for the lives of many around the world. It touched the heights of
the spiritual world in his lifetime.
The simple and practical teachings of the Buddha saved man.
Shakyamuni’s call for equality and people’s response to it paved the
way for social change in India.
It was his second noteworthy contribution. Perhaps many are unaware
that, on many occasions, the Buddha expressed views on the importance of
He called upon people to strengthen democratic values for the common
Despite the existence of democratic institutions in India centuries
before his birth, his advocacy of a democratic system, at a time of
complicated social and political conditions, was a historical event.
Respecting radical beliefs
He stressed making collective decisions; cooperating to implement
them; respecting the pre-established system of welfare and law and
elders’ advice; not using force on women; protecting Dharma; respecting
the monks; strengthening morality and dutifulness in life; and showing
reverence for others’ views and faiths.
These principles continue to have significance today for the
prosperity of the system, if adopted as per the demands of the time.
Gautama Buddha brought all movable-immovable objects and views within
the scope of Law of Change. Purification according to the demands of the
time and place is an indivisible part of this Law.
Hence, his call to accept this Law for all-around progress is his
third important contribution to the Indian Way and to humanity.
Courtesy: Buddhist Channel
The narrative behind the Buddha image
She was standing in the verandah of her house thinking and watching
the leafage of trees, nature’s gift to the beastly human race, gently
dancing in the breeze. She was brooding over her married life, that
lasted a mere 11 years, her departed husband who had been special and
exceptional, and the impermanence of life. The other day she got some
money, after-death benefits of her late husband.
Money, the root of all evil, but she was determined to turn this evil
into an honourable entity, worthy of her beloved husband’s memory. Why
shouldn’t she erect a Buddha image like the kings and queens did, in
memory of her consort with this filthy lucre?!
After all her husband was not a sculptor, he had been a builder,
involved in the construction business unlike his father, grandfather,
great grand father and his earlier ancestors who were renowned Ayurvedic
physicians. While her husband was in the construction field his brother
continued the family’s traditional healing profession, following the
superior system of medicine gifted by Brahma to Dhanvantari, the
physician to the Gods.
She had to select a place where this Buddha image would be erected,
not in front of her abode, not in one of the Buddhist temple in the
vicinity, the image should be erected where it deserves. The rightful
place should exist somewhere, she mused.
The Buddhist priest in the verandah of his abode was thinking too,
the root of all evil was not available to him to develop this ancient
temple and for the religious education of the children of the locality.
The elite Buddhists have filthy lucre in abundance but they waste it
dancing in the five star hotels without thinking of the underprivileged,
these are some of the thoughts of the monk. Vast tracts of paddy lands
belonging to the temple are there, but he is unable to make use of them
due to so many reasons.
The priest’s mentor had told him that the temple’s Buddha image was
erected facing the western direction and therefore it was ill-omened,
hindrance to better enfoldment. How to rectify this? The devotees’
council of the temple had proposed to build a new sermon hall and
install a Buddha image, similar in style of the Samadhi Buddha of
Anuradhapura to neutralize the unfavourable influences. However the
wherewithal should be found.
The gentle breeze was causing the foliage of the Bodhi arbour to
rustle; this perennial has supernatural powers, folks flock to this
Bodhi tree in large number but the temple built on pillars, using
cinnamon timber and bamboo the style prevalent in the Kandyan era
The frescos of the temple too belong to the Kandyan era. The monk had
heard that a large white cobra was living under the ancient Buddha image
inside the temple, to protect the image, so the devotees were afraid to
go in. Then the space under the pillars had to be covered with plaster.
The priest had heard about the celebrated institution established in
the year 1812 that taught Ayurvedic medicine was in the temple premises
with five physician monks. But the institution is nonexistent now other
than the apparatus such as grinding stones used to grind herbs,
medicinal bath etc. After the demise of the last physician monk in 1924
the institution too ceased its activities.
Yet the descendants of the ayurvedic physicians who gained knowledge
in this institution are there as living testimonies of this school of
traditional system of medicine.
The incumbent priest is aware of some who belong to the third and
fourth generations of the medical students of this bygone academy are
still practising Ayurvedic medicine but some of them are unaware that
their forefathers imbibed their knowledge in ayurveda from the fountains
provided by this temple’s academy of traditional system of medicine.
Will they assist in the re-establishment of this academy?
The priest went on brooding over what the future holds for this
She was still in a pensive mood. The mason who undertook to do some
repair work to her dwelling where she lived for the last 14 years, only
with a servant woman since she had no children, after the passing away
of her adored husband, was watching her and inquired after her
She revealed to him of her desire of erecting a Buddha image similar
to the Samadhi Buddha statue of Anuradhapura, but larger, should be an
aesthetic victory, approximately 30 feet in height, in memory of her
She visualized the distinguished Buddha statue of Anuradhapura in
seated posture, whoever gazed at the hallowed image attained
tranquillity, as experienced by Jawaharlal Nehru. She had read somewhere
that while Socrates meditated walking up and down or standing, The
Buddha had the wisdom to sit.
The repairman recalled the undeveloped state of his village temple,
the chief incumbent’s plan to install a new Buddha image and the
financial difficulties the priest faced. When he unfolded these to her
she was really amazed at the information she heard from the mason.
Road to spirituality
Now was she sure or unsure about the place where the Buddha image was
going to be erected? From the time she commenced thinking about it, it
had taken a little time to get this sidelight. So why waste any more
time. Only to ask one question. That was which road leads to this
Finally the road led her to Dematadenikande Jayasundararamaya
Buddhist temple dedicated to victorious aestheticism, where she learnt
that her husband’s forefathers were beginners of this temple’s Ayurvedic
medical academy and this unexpected news filled her with wonder and
disbelief, also understood the temple really needs a Buddha image and
destiny or whatever had brought her here.
The Buddha image, 30-feet in height is now being erected there in
memory of her late husband Sisira Harshakumara Chandrasena. Soon other
developments will follow she had confidence.
Atuwa in Sinhala
For the first time in the Sri Lankan history:
Atuwa means the books of noble Buddha Dhamma facts. These books give
detailed explanations of the brief sermons preached by the Buddha. The
Thripitaka is written in Pali. Atuwa Dhamma books offer the reader with
complex teachings of the Buddha that appear in Thripitaka in a very
simple and easily comprehensible way.
The most significant and meaningful utterances expressed by the
living Buddha contained in Thripitaka are totally written in Pali
Langauge. They were recorded by well-educated and erudite members of
both clergy and laity who had achieved spiritual advancement during the
times of ancient kings.
In those books of Buddhism that are known as ‘Atuwa’, detailed Dhamma
facts preached by wise senior disciples of the Buddha like Arahaths
Sariputta and Maha Kassapa Maha Thera are included. Not only that but
detailed sermons of Arahaths who lived during the time of the Buddha and
those lived until the end of Anuradhapura era are included in these
Under the guidance of Arahath Mahinda who visited Sri Lanka with the
noble message of the Buddha during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa,
Bhikkhus of those days learnt Buddhism by heart and passed on the Dhamma
by oral tradition to their next generations. Thereafter the Thripitaka
was written in ola leaves. For a period of 1575 years, these noble Atuwa
were all only in Pali.
Many members of both clergy and laity nowadays find it difficult to
understand the Atuwa due to lack of knowledge of Pali. Consequently
students of Dhamma schools are unable to read Atuwa for answering even
at public examinations.
By realizing this problem and to safeguard pure Buddhist teachings
for the future generations, the Buddhist Cultural Centre of Nedimale in
Dehiwala has taken measures for the first time in the Sri Lankan history
to translate all Atuwa books into Sinhala.
With the help of erudite scholars comprising both monks and laymen,
Venerable Kirama Wimalajothi Thera, the Director of Buddhist Cultural
Centre of Nedimale in Dehiwala has pioneered translating these noble
Buddhist scriptures known as Atuwa.
Ven. Wimalajothi Thera told Daily News that all the Atuwa books have
been translated into Sinhala language and this task took a period of
four years. This arduous task was accomplished by working hard through
day and night with much dedication and care. All these scriptures
comprise 47 volumes.
The sole objective of this task is to enlighten the devoted Sinhala
reader with correct and pure teachings of the Awakened One.
Since President Mahinda Rajapaksa is now aspiring to create a just
society fostered with noble human values through Buddhism in Sri Lanka,
this task of translating of all Atuwa into Sinhala will be a historic
and immortal event in the present era.
The writer has been serving as a teacher of English language and
literature for over 25 years while preaching Buddhism and guiding
students on Buddhist meditation.
Challenges for Buddhism
Some Western drug companies spend millions of dollars developing and
marketing a new drug only to have the health authorities later discover
that it has dangerous side-effects and then ban it. Needing to recover
their investment and unable to sell their drug in the West some of these
companies try to market their dangerous products in the Third World
where public awareness of health issues is low and indifferent
governments can be brought off. Some might say that Christianity is a
bit like this.
Having lost much of their following in the West, churches are now
beginning to look for opportunities elsewhere. Of course the Islamic
world is out of the question. Even the most optimistic evangelist knows
that the chance of spreading the Gospel among Muslims is nil.
The obvious targets are Africa, India and the Buddhist countries of
Asia. There are now several evangelical organizations dedicated just too
evangelizing Buddhists. The Asia Pacific Institute of Buddhist Studies
in the Philippines offers missionaries in-depth courses in Buddhist
doctrine, the languages of Buddhist countries
and the sociology of various Buddhist communities; better know the
Gospel for Tibetans
The Central Asia Fellowship is geared specifically to spreading the
Gospel among Tibetans.
The Overseas Missionary Fellowship is ‘an acknowledged authority on
Buddhism’ and ‘is available to conduct training sessions and seminars,
give presentations and speak on how Christians can work effectively in
the Buddhist world.’
The Sonrise Centre for Buddhist Studies and the South Asia Network
are both on-line communities providing missionaries with detailed,
accurate and up-to-date information useful for evangelizing Buddhists.
Make no mistake, these are not small ad hock groups. They are large,
well-financed, superbly run organizations staffed by highly motivated
and totally dedicated people and they are in it for the long haul.
A book called ‘Peoples of the Buddhist World’ has recently been
published by one of the leaders of this new evangelical assault on
The book’s 453 pages offer missionaries and interested Christians a
complete profile of 316 Buddhist ethnic and linguistic groups in Asia,
from the Nyenpa of central Bhutan to the Kui of northern Cambodia, from
the Buriats of the Russian Far East to the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka.
There is a detailed breakdown of the size of each group, how many
call themselves Buddhists and how many actually know and practice it,
which languages they speak, their strengths and how to overcome them,
their weaknesses and how to take advantage of them, an overview of their
history, their culture and the best ways to evangelize them.