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Buddhist Spectrum

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 come.

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 another.

Precious innocence

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 of sorrows.

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 democracy.

He called upon people to strengthen democratic values for the common welfare.

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.

Soft winds

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 remains undeveloped.

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 temple.

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 thoughtfulness.

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 late husband.

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 shrine.

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 noble books.

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.

A review

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 enemy.

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 Buddhism.

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.


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