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Samkhya : Part Six : Samkhya – Buddhism – Vedanta

Continued from Part Five

W. Samkhya and Buddhism

50.1. Samkhya and Samkhya-like ideas certainly predate emergence of Buddhism. One of the teachers of the Buddha is said to have taught a doctrine that resembled Samkhya. There are certain similarities between Samkhya and the early Buddhism. It is likely each influenced the other, in their later stages. That does not however mean that Buddhism is the same as Samkhya. Their dissimilarities are perhaps more significant than their similarities.

50.2. The similarities between Samkhya and the early Buddhism could briefly be mentioned as: acceptance of the notion that life is characterized by suffering; rejection of the notion of absolute God; rejection of the concept of soul; emphasis on individual rather on cosmic; similarity in the theories of evolution; similarity in the view of the world as a constantly becoming and changing phenomena; acceptance of the concept of Gunas; acceptance of the Satkarya vada that the effect resides in its cause;   similarity in enumeration of the basic elements or components of nature; similarity in the notions of liberation kaivalya or nirvana;   rejection of both the Vedic authority and the validity of rituals; rejection of extreme practices and self torture etc.

50.3. In each of these similarities the Buddhist projections appear more radical or perhaps more elaborate. Having said that let me also mention that such similarities are not unique to Samkhya and Buddhism alone. One finds such features generally among other ancient Indian Schools too. For instance, the adoption of enumeration of various components of nature was a well accepted method among other systems of thought; rejection of Vedic authority and its ritualistic attitude was also a feature of other rational schools; the notion of aloofness kaivalya absolute independence was also the ideal of Jains. Similarly, the theories of Karma, Gunas and such other beliefs were commonly accepted by most schools.

50.4. But one similarity which is rather striking is the emphasis on Dukkha suffering and its eradication. That was the stated objective of both the systems. Buddhism however made that the central point of its doctrine. The Buddha’s second and the fourth postulates on the origination of sorrow and the methods of elimination of sorrow are his original contribution to Indian thought; the former being his philosophical stand point and the latter his religious system.

50.5. The other distinctive characteristics of Buddhism are the emphasis on compassion and ethics. . The Buddha asserted that it is not adequate if one merely focuses on elimination of suffering; but one must acquire the skill of probing the nature of the object. Those efforts must essentially be rooted in ethics and a wholesome mental state. The cultivation of the four sublime virtues of loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic Joy, and equanimity is of great importance.

50.6. The Samkhya abandons the idea of the existence of the absolute, but it retains the idea of spirit (Purusha) and of material world (Prakrti); the Buddhism, on the other hand abandoned both these two conceptions, and retained only the fleeting series of mental states (stream of consciousness) as a quasi reality, In either case there is effort to disown the human psycho-physical apparatus and its functioning.

51.1. Samkhya teaches that we should look beyond our personal affinities with Prakrti and realize the timeless unchanging nature of our true self, which resides beyond Prakrti as Purusha the pure consciousness. This realization can be understood as the reverse process of evolution back into the Purusha. Whereupon the Purusha is established in its own nature as kaivalya solitary and independent, indifferently observing the natural world.

51.2. Early Buddhism as also Samkhya attempted to do away with the illusion that empherical ego is the real Self; though the Buddha remained silent on the question of Self as also on the question of nirvana. But, the Buddha’s studious disapproval of metaphysical discussion on these aspects did not seem to have yielded the results he desired. Because, his silence spurred series of speculations in the later Buddhist Schools; and caused much confusion and bewilderment.

51.3 . The nature of Nirvana is perhaps the most debated issue of Buddhist philosophy, probably because the Buddha himself refused to speculate on it. His attitude was, in effect: If you want to know what nirvana is like, then experience it. But clearly Nirvana does not involve the isolation of a pure consciousness as in the case of Samkhya, because there is no such thing as permanent consciousness in early Buddhism. The unique feature of Buddhism is that there is no permanent Self at all, and never was; there are only five skandhas, “heaps” of elements, which constantly interact. It is significant that the skandhas do not constitute a Self; the sense of a Self is merely an illusion created by their interaction. The Buddha emphasized that one should not identify anything as the Self.

[The following are few chosen extracts from Introduction to the Modern Samkhya: Ancient Spirituality for the Contemporary Atheist, written by  Douglas Osto, a member of the Philosophy Programme in the School of Humanities, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand; and,  one who specializes in Indian Mahayana Buddhism, South Asian religions and philosophies, contemporary Buddhist and Hindu practice,

The goal of his book, as Prof. Osto says, is to present a manual of “Modern Sākhya” for use as a path toward transcending personal suffering; a practical guidebook for activating Sākhya philosophy; and, to serve as a tool for transcending suffering.

khya and Buddhism

Although both Sākhya and Buddhism emerged from the same historical context in ancient India and share a number of important features characteristic of the renouncer traditions, the two have followed substantial different paths since.

Buddhism eventually traveled beyond India and  spread throughout all of Asia ; and, in the modern period has undergone profound changes during its transmission to the West.

khya, on the other hand, while exerting a profound influence on India thought throughout the centuries, never took root beyond India ; and , has all but become extinct as an independent religious philosophy in the modern period.

One of the most profound changes to occur to Buddhism in its encounter with modernity has been termed “psychologization“, whereby Buddhism is viewed as psychology; and, its mythological and traditional aspects are either downplayed or ignored. This has in turn led to the “Buddhicization” of psychology, whereby growing numbers of psychologists use Buddhist concepts and techniques for therapeutic reasons.

We see this most clearly in the “mindfulness” craze that has entered mainstream psychology in the United States. Thus a de-traditionalized, psychologized Buddhism is now firmly entrenched within the American medical and psycho-therapeutic communities.

Another aspect of this new Buddhism is the downplaying or complete ignoring of the world-renouncing aspects of Buddhism, in favor of the “this-worldly” benefits of Buddhism

The above comments are not meant as a criticism of modern Buddhism or how it is used by some people in the contemporary world. Rather it is to point out that religions and religious philosophies are constantly undergoing changes and transformations in order to adapt to the needs of people. These days renouncing the world to become a wandering ascetic is not a viable option for most people living in modern, industrialized societies.

Moreover, few people would choose to give up all their worldly possessions, emotional attachments, erotic relationships, and family ties to pursue a transcendent state beyond space, time, death and decay. However, what many people today want as much as the ancient Indian renouncers is to live a life free from suffering, and attain some type of lasting happiness.]

X. Samkhya and Vedanta

52.1. Even prior to the emergence of Samkhya as a system , the Samkhya-like ideas and terms appeared in the Vedas, Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita, the epics and other texts .This suggests that the monistic trends in Vedic thought and dualistic concepts of Samkhya had common origins.

52.2. But Samkhya as a doctrine was ever distinct from the Vedic stream of speculative intuitions. The early Samkhya, in sharp contrast, refused to speculate on god and rejected the scriptures and rituals as means for human attainments. It stepped aside cosmological explanations or implications.  It affirmed the existence of the objective-world; emphasized the world has to be understood in the context of human existence; and, said the world is inextricably wound up with the presence of human existence. One has to therefore deal with the world positively.

52.3. The Samkhya separated itself from the scripture- based Vedanta and preferred to be a group of reason-based free thinkers with only a loose scriptural affiliation. But, the Samkhya never rejected the Veda completely unlike the Buddhists and the Jains; but, it maintained that Vedas cannot be accepted as unquestioned sole authority. Besides, the Samkhya brand of atheism never collapsed into the materialism of Charvakas and naturalists (Lokayatas). Samkhya always maintained spiritual and salvation-oriented outlook.

52.4. Though both the Upanishads and Samkhya identified knowledge (jnana) and effective discrimination (viveka) as the means for attaining human aspirations, which is realizing one’s true identity, Samkhya was dualistic to its core, whereas the Upanishads adopted a non-dual approach saying that the absolute consciousness encompasses the entire universe; everything that resides in it is but a transformation of that principle.

53.1. The Samkhya insisted that the individual consciousness, the true identity of man , is distinct from everything else and there are infinite number of such unit consciousness. It said consciousness (Purusha) which sees the world (Prakrti) is separate from what it sees. It asserted that confusing the seer for the seen or mixing both is the cause for man’s suffering.

53.2. Vedanta, on the other hand, asserted the notion of identity of the individual consciousness and the Universal consciousness. It declared that the entire manifest universe is an expression or transformation of that absolute consciousness. Vedanta sharply differed from the Samkhya theory of evolution of the manifest world as emanating through a series of causes and effects.

53.3. Samkhya maintains two independent realities and infinite numbers of Purushas. Vedanta does not accept two infinite-s and multiplicity of Souls.

The extreme form of dualism between subject and object was seen as a basic inadequacy of Samkhya as it left no room for coexistence of the two categories.

53.4. The later variations of the Samkhya School attempted to resolve these difficulties by (1) conceiving Purushas not as distinct from each other, but as various aspects or reflections of one unitary consciousness; and (2) conceiving Prakrti not as distinct from this unified consciousness, but as an aspect of it.

But this, of course, transformed Samkhya into a completely different system; because, it gives up the basic dualism of Purusha and Prakrti.

53.5. With these modifications Samkhya came to resemble the monistic system of Sri Shankara. It was also rendered theistic with Samkhya accepting the existence of a Supreme Being (Parama Purusha) the God.  But, these adaptations rendered Samkhya acceptable to Vedic Schools; and Samkhya came to be regarded, since about the sixteenth century, as one of the six accepted Schools of traditional Indian philosophies (Darshana).

53.6. With or without its modifications, Samkhya is a very important School of thought; and has contributed to the richness, profundity and breadth of the Indian philosophy. The explanations and elaborations offered by most other Schools of Indian thought are based in the foundations provided by the terms and concepts provided by the Samkhya. 

Swami Vivekananda in his exposition of Samkhya philosophy aptly remarked, “If we take into consideration Advaita Vedanta, then our argument will be that the Samkhya is not a perfect generalization …and yet all glory really belongs to the Samkhya. It is very easy to give a finishing touch to a building when it is constructed.”

Y. Kaivalya, Nirvana and Moksha

54.1. Samkhya, Buddhism and Vedanta are the three most important philosophical systems. The three together represent almost the whole of Indian philosophies. Nearly every shade of metaphysical discussion revolves round these three pillars. They may also be viewed as three basic ways of resolving the relation that exists between God and world; Man and God; Man and world; and in general the nature of relation between subject and object.

54.2. All the three systems regard realizing ones true identity and gaining release from suffering of all sorts as the goal of human evolution. There are similarities as also differences among the three modes of inquiry.  All the three instruct the individual to avoid identifying with any physical or mental phenomenon but to let-go all identities. All three agree that enlightenment – variously called as kaivalya, nirvana or moksha- is not an intellectual construct.  They point out that liberation cannot be attained through theoretical knowledge of the scriptures because it is a state that is beyond all categories of thought. In other words, enlightenment or liberation is beyond philosophies. Enlightenment is an experience.

55.1. The question is: since all the three systems regard enlightenment as a state beyond intellect, are they all referring to the same experience or whether there are different kinds of enlightenment?

That question arises because the basic tenets and methods of the three systems are irreconcilably different. Samkhya is dualistic; the early Buddhism may be considered pluralistic; while, Advaita Vedanta is monistic.

55.2. Samkhya is the most radical possible dualism between subject and its object. The separation between the two (Purusha and Prakrti) is so extreme that the system-connect virtually fails because the two neither can come together nor communicate with each other.

55.3. Early Buddhism attempts to combine subject into object. Consciousness according to Buddhism has no independent existence; it is something that is conditioned and arising out of the interaction with other factors (skandas). Buddhism does not believe in a permanent Self. The Self is merely an illusion created by the interaction of the five aggregates (skandas). The Self shrinks to nothing and there is only a void; but the Void is not a thing — it expresses the fact that there is absolutely nothing, no-thing at all, which can be identified as the Self.

Both Samkhya and Buddhism focus on the individual and do not discuss cosmic aspects of existence. Both are basically radical and dualistic in their approach. And, both disregard the Vedas, Vedic authority and its rituals.

55.4. Advaita Vedanta on the other hand conflates object into subject. There is nothing external to Brahman, the One without a second. Since Brahman is a non-dual, self-luminous consciousness, it encompasses the entire universe. And the universe is nothing but the transformation of Brahman. Everything is the Self the Brahman.

56.1. What do kaivalya, nirvana or moksha   mean in these systems

 According to Samkhya, the Purusha in its true form is ever pure and ever-present. The Arhat, said the Buddha, is “deep, immeasurable, and unfathomable, like the mighty ocean.”  The Brahman of Vedanta is an infinite pure consciousness pervading everywhere.

The Samkhya ideal of attaining enlightenment (Kaivalya) is described as Discriminative Knowledge (Viveka-khyāti). It consists in Purusha (pure consciousness) realizing its distinction from Prakrti (everything else) with instruction of Buddhi (knowledge of discrimination).Ignorance (Aviveka)  is failure to differentiate Purusa (Jnasvarupa) as distinct from the intellect, ego, mind and other modifications of Prakrti. Liberation (Kaivalya) in Samkhya is neither the acquisition of a new state, nor the shaking of an old one. It is only the disappearance of the conditioned factors of Aviveka, ignorance or the wrong-knowledge. The state of liberation is named as Kaivalya (aloneness) because the Purusa enjoys unique aloofness in its splendid isolation.

But,  Kaivalya which is essentially based in dualism was viewed as an inadequacy of the Samkhya. The Yoga which has its theoretical base in Samkhya sought to correct the position. In Samadhi the pure consciousness becomes one with the object of meditation. The distinctions between the knower, knowing and the known is obliterated .It is akin to the Advaita ideal of realizing the whole universe as the Self.

56.2. Nirvana is also the realization of the true nature of Reality – of being, non-being and becoming.  The term Nirvana derived from the root va (to blow like the wind) qualified by a negative prefix nir denotes a state of motionless rest where no wind blows, where the fire has been quenched, where the light is extinguished and where the stars have gone out .The Buddha explained it with a simile of an oil-lamp sinking upon itself and expiring when its fuel has been consumed .Nirvana suggests a state of emptiness and nothingness. At the same time Nirvana is described as a state of blessedness, unbound peace and deliverance.

Nirvana is characterized as a state beyond conditioned consciousness, beyond the ceaseless motion of life (Samsara).  It is the absolute extinction of suffering and attainment of unique intuitive wisdom ( Prajna or Pannā). The Buddha however refused to speculate on the nature of it. We therefore do not really know how the Buddha understood Nirvana. The Pali Canon speaks of a state beyond all conceptual thoughts; and yet, it could be experienced in meditation.

But nirvana does not seem to involve the isolation of a pure consciousness, (as in the case of Samkhya) because such concept is not present in the early Buddhism. The concept of a permanent Self is also not there. The Buddha emphasized that one should not identify anything as the Self. Nirvana, in essence is complete freedom by abandoning all sensations, all perceptions, all volitions, and acts of consciousness. It is a state of bliss which is entirely different from and free from all that exists in the Samsara.

The Buddhist Nirvana is not the eternal essence, which is the basis of everything and from which the whole world has arisen (like the Brahman of the Upanishads) but the reverse of all that we know, something altogether different which must be characterized as a nothing in relation to the world, but which is experienced as highest bliss by those who have attained to it (Anguttara Nikaya, Navaka-nipata 34).

56.3. Vedanta says Brahman is One without a second; Brahman is unbound there is nothing outside it. For Sri Shankara, moksha, liberation, is the realization that I am, and always have been, Brahman. One does not attain or merge with this Brahman; one merely realizes that one has always been Brahman. Sri Shankara uses the analogy of the space within a closed jar: that space has always been one with all space; their separateness is nothing but a construct (kalpana vishesha)

57.1. On the face of it the early Buddhism and Vedanta appear to have serious differences. While Buddhism does not believe in a Self, Vedanta says everything is the Self. There is apparently no consciousness in nirvana, but everything is consciousness in moksha. The one appears to be the mirror image of the other. They are extreme positions, trying to resolve the relation between the Self and the non-self by conflating the one into the other. The not-self of Buddhism holds within it the Self; while the Self of Advaita swallows the not-self.

57. 2. How different are they? Or do they mean the same thing in reverse?

It perhaps depends on the way one looks at it. In either case there is no duality between the object (that which is observed) or the subject (that which observes).If you look at it in another way there is not a great deal of difference between the two systems.

In both the systems the right understanding is the key to salvation. It is the right understanding that liberates. In Vedanta, one does not attain or merge with this Brahman; one merely realizes that one has always been Brahman. Similarly in Buddhism too one does not achieve anything new, but realizes ones true nature (or Buddha nature) as being always been pure and unstained. All that one needs to do is to realize that fact.

The concept of Shunya emptiness of later Buddhism is rather fascinating. Shunyata transcends human thoughts and speech. In Mahayana Buddhism shunyata, emptiness not merely refers to the absence of a Self but is also the fundamental characteristic of all reality; shunyata is the category which corresponds to the Vedanta concept of Brahman.

57.3. But can shunyata be reconciled with the One without a second?

Yes, it can be done. The explanation offered is that there is essentially only one thing; and to put it more accurately it is not even one in the numerical sense. We cannot say that it is One, yet, we cannot say it is not one, not two or not any number. The term selected by Vedanta to give expression to its idea  of Reality is: ‘it is not two’ (a-dvaita).

To call it One, is just a way of saying that it is a unity and there is nothing outside it — no duality of a subject and an object. The it (tat) would not even be aware of itself as being one or being alone. It is absolute wholeness. In another way of saying, because there is nothing outside it, its phenomenal experience would be of nothing or nothing, which is shunyata.

58.1. There are some passages in the Pali Canon which almost sound Vedanta- like. Its language too resemble the mysticism of Vedanta

 There is Oh disciples an unborn, un-originated, uncreated and unformed. Were it not there … Oh disciples,.. there would be no possibility of existence of the world of the born, generated, created and formed.(Udana 8.3)

The great ocean is deep, immeasurable and unfathomable..So also the Perfect One is deep, immeasurable and unfathomable as the great ocean. (Samyutta Nikaya 4)

58.2. The Buddha emphasized that nirvana is neither annihilation nor eternal life. In the Brahmanimantanika Sutra (Majjhima-Nikaya), the Buddha said: Do not think that this [nirvana] is an empty or void state. There is this consciousness, without distinguishing mark, infinite and shining everywhere (Vinnanam anidassanam anantam sabbato-pabham); it is untouched by the material elements and not subject to any power.
 
 
 
On another occasion the Buddha describes the state of an Arhant the one who has realized;
 

He who has gone to rest, no measure can fathom him.

There is no word to speak of him.
What thought could grasp has blown away.
And every path to speech is barred.
(Suttanipata)
 *
58.3. Just as there are passages in the Pali Canon which sound like Vedanta, so there are passages in the Upanishads which seem Buddhist-like. Perhaps the most famous among them is Yajnavalkya’s instruction to his wife Maitreyi in the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad: “Arising out of these elements (bhuta), into them also one vanishes away. After death there is no consciousness (na pretya samjna ‘sti)….”
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Yajnavalkya explains: For where there is a duality, as it were (iva), there one sees another…. But when, verily, everything has become just one’s own self, then what could one see and through what… Through what could one know that owing to which all this is known? So, through what could one understand the Understander? This Self… is imperceptible, for it is never perceived. (II. iv. 12-15)

Thus, the notions of infinity and nothingness appear in both the systems. Nothingness is an image or a reflection of the infinity.

59.1. But, why did Sri Shankara preferred to speak of the One and the Buddha of nothingness?

It seems that the answer to this lies in the nature of their philosophies. In referring to Brahman as One without a second, Sri Shankara tries to describe reality from outside, as it were, because that is the only perspective from which it can be understood as One. Sri Shankara was basically a philosopher; and as all philosophers do, he looks upon the whole of reality objectively and to comprehend its structure. It is as if the philosophizing intellect takes a look at the whole of existence from outside of it.

59.2. But the Buddha was describing his experience. He realized that one cannot get outside of reality and describe it as an object; because one is inseparable from that reality. He also believed too much philosophizing and clinging to ideas is an obstruction to enlightenment. He advocated meditation as a process to let go all attachments, even the attachment to ideas and concepts.

59.3. But both the savants accept that conceptual thinking is part of the problem; not in itself the way to enlightenment. If one accepts that the goal is to attain liberation rather than to understand it, then philosophy too must ultimately be transcended or let go. Philosophy might try to view things externally, but ultimately it is one’s experience that really matters.

59.4. Can nirvana or moksha be experienced? I do not know. But it appears these states suggest a condition where the boundaries of individual identity would simply dissolve. It would perhaps be a complete absence of tension and effort, a letting go of all identities and of everything that was previously clung to;   and one would eventually become that everything which in fact one always was.

60.1. In summary, the difference between the Buddhist nirvana and the Vedantic moksha is one of perspective. The Vedanta explanation — that of realizing ones true identity -is a philosophical view. The Buddhist interpretation of letting go all identities is objective description. But in each case the actual experience appears to be the same. Ones experience is the truest test of all, as Sri Shankara observed.

flower2

Duality is a normal reality of experience.. So Samkhya talks of a framework to link up with the dual world as elementising becomes logical and reasonable..and easier to comprehend. Advaita is an unusual reality… an abstract experience and perhaps can be obtained in a particular state. You can’t understand it as even elemntaising of a whole kills the essence. Buddhism is like Samkhya as it does not delve on question of god and is very practical to remove dukkha… and so is Samkhya.

All theses are true but in different locations… and if all locations exist within us…all these are true…as experiential realities. So one does not contradict the other.

..Prof. Durgadas Sampath

Lotus_Flower purity

 

References and sources

Vedanta and Buddhism 

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/vonglasenapp/wheel002.html

Enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta 

http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/fulltext/Jr-an/26715.htm

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Samkhya

 

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Consciousness – a Buddhist view

The question of consciousness

1.1. Consciousness is a very elusive subject. It is rather difficult to define consciousness, mainly because it is internal and is a subjective experience. Any experience is always from a given point of view; and it is hard to be objective about our internal experiences. This is particularly true in the case of consciousness where we cannot remove ourselves from the process. The very notion of observing the mind with the mind appears enigmatic, for it does not allow for separation of subject and object. It is a legitimate concern.

1.2. The other problem involved with describing subjective experiences is the use of proper language; these are quite considerable. The language we employ to articulate our subjective experiences have their roots in our unique cultural, historic and linguistic backgrounds. The terms employed by any school, be it oriental or western, have their own broader range of connotations covering not merely the realm of thought but also of emotions and beyond.

For instance, in the western languages one speaks in terms of consciousness, mind, mental phenomenon or awareness etc. In the Indian context one speaks in terms of buddhi, manas, jnana, vijnana vidya etc all of which can roughly be translated as awareness or intelligence or mental states.

But these terms have a wider range of connotation than their English equivalents.  For instance the terms manas or chitta cover not merely the realm of thought but also of emotions and much more. It is therefore, not easy to transport the meaning of a term from one system to the other with accuracy. The terms employed are ever subject to varied interpretations.

1.3. The question of consciousness has attracted a great deal of attention in the Indian philosophical systems. Buddhism developed rigorous methods for refining the attention, and applying that attention to exploring the origins, nature, and role of consciousness in the natural world . The earliest Buddhist texts viewed consciousness as an important factor in determining the course of human happiness and suffering; liberation and bondage.

Yet, Buddhism did not “define” consciousness; perhaps, because it is nebulous; and difficult to pinpoint. But in principle, Buddhism asserts it is possible to recognize experientially what consciousness is and identify it.

1.4. The Buddhist texts talk of consciousness in metaphors such as clear light- prabhasvara (implying clarity- all defilements being sort of infection), knowing, and cognizance flowing like a river. They repeatedly talk about consciousness as an ever changing stream.

In order to understand the Buddhist theory of consciousness we have to get to know certain basic Buddhist concepts.

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Central reality of all existence is change

2.1. The Buddha pointed out that the central reality of all existence is change. All phenomena come into being as a result of causes and conditions, they change every moment; and, eventually , they pass away.

A belief in a permanent or a changeless-self is regarded a false concept leading to mistaken notions about reality.

This belief is in sharp contrast to the Vedanta view of a changeless, attribute-less and immutable Brahman. The Buddhists assert that one of the basic misconceptions is the notion of a self – Atman; and, only those who free themselves of such false notions can attain liberation. They argue that if there were some disembodied, unchanging entity, it would have no relation to any individual. And, because it lies beyond the world of the senses it could never be perceived.

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Five aggregates

3.1. According to the Buddhist view, the individuals are not seamless continuum of an enduring essence such as Brahman or Atman (soul) ; but, are actually composites of ever changing configuration of five factors or five aggregates – (Pali: khandha; Skt. : skandha).

These relate to the physical form (rupa) – the body and all material objects including sense organs ; the sensations or the feelings (vedana) – one’s emotional response to the phenomena by way of desires and aversions in which the five senses and mind are involved; the third is the perception or recognition (sanna or sanjnya) of physical and mental objects;  and , the fourth factor – sankhara or samskara – is variously  called impulses or mental formulations or fabrications – these include volition and attention , the faculty of will , the force of habits etc. And, lastly there is the faculty of vinnana or vijnana the awareness or consciousness, which encompasses mental events and what is generally called sub-conscious in the West.

3.2. All the five aggregates are regarded “empty of self nature” in the sense they are dependent on causes (hetu) and conditions (patica); and are inter-related. In this scheme of things, consciousness too is conditioned and arises out of interaction with the other factors (physical or mental) . The consciousness , in turn, influences one or more mental factors.

Thus consciousness and the mind-body (nama-rupa) are interdependent; there is no arising of consciousness without conditions. These form the chain of cause and effect (karmic).Yet, though consciousness and matter do contribute towards the origination of each other, one cannot become the substantial cause of the other.

3.3.In the Buddhist view, the difference between the plant, animal and the humans is in the level of intelligence; and all possess subtle consciousness. Any sentient being that can experience pain and pleasure is thought to possess consciousness. Therefore, the subtle consciousness is not uniquely human.

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Consciousness

4.1. An individual, according to Buddhist thought, is ever changing or rather a fleeting, changing assortment or a procession of various unstable interacting factors. Consciousness too is highly varied , made up of myriad mental states. Those mental states are dependent on the five senses.

4.2. The  Buddhist teachers suggest that through careful observation, it is possible to see consciousness as being a sequence of conscious moments rather as a continuum of awareness. Each moment is an experience of an individual mind-state: a thought, a memory, a feeling, a perception. A mind-state arises, exists and, being impermanent, ceases , following which the next mind-state arises. Thus the consciousness of a sentient being can be seen as a continuous series of birth and death of these mind-states. In this context rebirth is simply the persistence of this process.

4.3. Consciousness is said to act like a life force which runs through the process and through life after life. But, consciousness, unlike Atman, is subject to change every movement and influenced by the vicissitudes of one’s life. It is explained that one’s vocational actions produce karmas which influence the consciousness in a certain manner and determine ones rebirth.

It is said, the five skandhas continue on, powered by past karma, propelling births and rebirths. Here, Karma, in essence, is not action per se; but , is rather the state of mind of the person performing the action. The problem with such bad Karma is that it molds our personality, creates ruts or habitual patterns of thinking and feeling. These patterns in turn influence our present and future lives.

A major aim of Buddhism is to become aware of this process, and then to eliminate it by eradicating its causes.

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Understanding is the key

5.1. The core problem of human existence, according to Buddhist belief, is Duhkkha – the suffering . It is caused by the ignorance of the reality of things as they are. Such suffering leads to delusions, attachments and stress; and, results in continuing cycle of rebirths. Due to ignorance of the true nature of reality, human beings make choices that drive them to suffering. Since the problem originates from lack of right understanding, the solution to the malady should be sought in gaining the right understanding. Therefore, the Buddha said, one desirous of seeking liberation must discard mistaken ideas and acquire correct understanding.

5.2. In short, a person’s bondage is caused by ignorance or incorrect understanding. Liberation too is, in effect, caused by understanding – but it is the proper understanding; and, nothing more. Bondage is the wrong understanding that binds; while liberation is the right understanding that frees. In either case, it is a matter of understanding. All that is from an individual’s point of view; But, in absolute sense there is neither bondage nor liberation.

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Emancipation….And after..?

6.1. The Dhukkha of bondage is thus a matter of mental process; modifications of the consciousness, projecting the world outside and conditioning our reactions to it. Emancipation is the knowledge of things as they really are; and is the freedom from constraints imposed by phenomenal involvements.Emancipation, it appears, is the reverse or the other side of involvement in the phenomena.

6.2. A right understanding when it arises frees instantaneously; and is not delayed until the exhaustion of the karmas that have brought the current life into existence. In other words, liberation need not wait until one’s death. Such an enlightened one is termed an Arhant in the Buddhist lore. [Its equivalent term in Vedanta is Jivan-muktha – the emancipated one even while alive in this body].

6.3. The Buddha was rather reluctant to be drawn into a discussion on the state of consciousness of an Arhant after he discarded his mortal coils.  Asked what happens to an Arhant upon his death, the Buddha was said to have replied: “What happens to footprints of birds in mid air?” Perhaps the Buddha likened the death of an Arhant to the extinction of a flame when the fuel (karma) runs out.

6.4. He evidently felt that such questions arose out of a false attachment to self, and that they distracted one from the main aim of eliminating suffering. Those who seek liberation, according to him, must discard the belief in self. And that requires meditative training, which removes defilements like aversions, attachments, cravings and stress.

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Mind and consciousness

7.1. The Vedanta and the Buddhist text treat the mind and consciousness as being distinct. Vedanta believes consciousness is so called because the power of deliberation is hidden in it (like the fire in a log of wood that is not burning); and, it is called mind when deliberation is on (like log on fire).

Mind is a deliberation of consciousness. Mind is that which discriminates the characteristics of objects.Mind is a pattern or a manipulation of consciousness which in turn is a function of our original nature. According to Tantra, Shiva is consciousness (chith) while Shakthi as its deliberation (vimarsha) is mind (dhih).The union of Shiva and Shakthi too is yoga.

7.2. The Buddhist interpretation appears to be slightly different. It says; consciousness (vinnana) is separate and arises from mind (mana). Nagarjuna(c. 150 – 250 CE), the celebrated Buddhist philosopher and founder of Madhyamaika school, expands on it by putting forth a series of vivid images.

Nagarjuna compares the natural purity of mind to the butter lying un-extracted in un-churned milk; to an oil lamp concealed inside a vase; to a pristine deposit of lapis lazuli buried in a rock; and, to a seed covered by its husk. When the milk is churned, the butter is revealed; when holes are made in the vase, the lamp’s light pours out; when the gem is dug out, the brilliance of the lapis lazuli shines forth; and, when the husk is removed the seed can germinate. Nagarjuna’s explanation is akin to that of the Samkhya belief which denotes that the effect is in reality a transformation of the cause. The cause is transformed and differentiated into multiplicity of objects.

Nagarjuna then argues that the essential nature of the mind is pure and its defilements are removable through meditative purification. When our afflictions are removed or cleaned through the sustained cultivation of insight, the innate purity of mind becomes manifest.

*

Practice of meditation

8.1. As per the Vajrayana Buddhism, Bhodhi-Chitta “that which is conscious” resides in all of us as a hidden pool of compassion, tranquility, unaffected, “ever washed bright” and beyond the phenomenal involvements. It can be experienced when our afflictions are removed or cleaned through sustained cultivation of insight. One way of experiencing pure consciousness, according to Buddhism, is to practice meditation.

8.2. The Buddha believed that if one wishes to avoid certain types of results, one needs to change the conditions that give rise to them.The effect lies latent in the cause; and that effect in turn seeds the next effect. He said, removal of a basic condition will remove its effect. Therefore, if one changes the conditions of one’s state of mind, one can change the trait of one’s consciousness and the resulting attitudes and emotions.

It is in this context that the Buddha taught practice of mindfulness anapana –sati; anapana meaning breath and sati (snkt.smruthi) is non-forgetfulness, being aware of it.

The Buddha spoke of mind as being essentially pure, clear and peaceful. The distractions, dispersions, confusions and agitations are all apparent. But the appearances could be troublesome and stressful. They need to be cleared. The method he recommended for removing the disturbances is the mindfulness. He asked one to be aware of one’s own breathing; in other words, to be mindful of breathing and of the body, feelings, thoughts, and other phenomena.

Accordingly, in order to get rid of dhukkha, suffering one should neither identify with nor attach to vinnana, consciousness; but just watch. That Mindfulness leads to understanding of the impermanent and fleeting character (anitya) and illusory appearance of consciousness and then on to eliminate it by eradicating its causes.

[Please click here for more on Mindfulness]

8.2 . Dharmakirti , a seventh century Buddhist philosopher, too stated that through disciplined meditative training, natural constraints on consciousness are removable and  substantive changes can be effected in human consciousness. Dharmakirti argued that, in principle, it is possible for a mental activity like compassion to be developed to a limitless degree. He, in fact, remarked that the greatness of the Buddha as a spiritual teacher lies not so much in his mastery or knowledge in various fields but in his having attained boundless compassion for all beings.

No-mind

9.1. After having said that, the Buddhist texts caution against treating consciousness as the ultimate reality. It should not be; because consciousness is only a projection of the original nature. And, consciousness is inconsistent and depends on other factors for its existence.

The Buddha Manjushree explained the ultimate state of reality is not something that can be known by consciousness, nor is it an object of the mind..He said,   you cannot find This Ultimate One with the mind of thoughts … so how do you find it? … by no-mind, no-thought, by not attaching to thoughts but letting them just be there, but never attaching to them while maintaining presence.

*

Scientific investigations and Buddhist meditation practices

10.1. As discussed above, Buddhist texts hold the view that human consciousness emerges not from the brain or from matter; but from a deeper level. And, as the brain ceases the consciousness will dissolve back into the substrate and carries on from lifetime to lifetime. The continuum of consciousness will carry on; and it is a beginning- less continuum. They argue, the being that is reborn is different from the previous one that died; but its identity remains as before because of the continuity in the flow of consciousness.

10.2. The classical western theory (among other theories) appears to be that consciousness is an emergent property of a complex organization or of the matter called brain. The science thinks of consciousness as arising out of matter; because , no other explanation seems plausible. It rightly argues that the human emotions, visual perceptions or psyche cannot arise in the absence of the brain or the appropriate faculty.  They all arise because of a certain level of brain and nerve-cell complexity.

In other words, the nerve cell complexity of the brain is the seat of consciousness. Thus consciousness is a kind of physical process that arises through the structure and dynamics of the brain. And, when the brain is dead, when it decomposes or when it is no longer capable of functioning as brain, the properties of the brain-based consciousness also vanish. That is the end.

10.3. B. Alan Wallace the noted scholar teacher in his essay “A Science of Consciousness: Buddhism (1), the Modern West (0)” observes the West presently has no pure science of consciousness and it also lacks an applied science of consciousness that reveals means for refining and enhancing consciousness.

Francisco Valera, the renowned Biologist who dedicated his life to the studies of ‘biology of consciousnesses’ , opined that if the scientific study of consciousness is to grow to a full maturity-given that subjectivity is a primary element of consciousness – it will have to incorporate a fully developed and rigorous methodology of first-person empiricism. He felt, there was a tremendous potential in this area for contemplative traditions like Buddhism to make a substantive contribution to science and its methods.

There are signs that the scientific community is trying to understand the Buddhist theories of the nature, origins and potentials of consciousness.

*

10.4. But, the path is not easy. Unlike that of modern science, Buddhism’s approach has been primarily from first-person experience. The contemplative method, as developed by Buddhism, is an empirical use of introspection. The scientific approach is not comfortable with an empirical investigation of subjective events from a first-person perspective. That is because; meditative experiences are not amenable to verification – both through repetition by the same practitioner; and through other individuals of same caliber and adopting same practices. One therefore wonders, given the highly subjective nature of consciousness, whether it is ever possible to gain a third person –objective and scientific-understanding.

The other problem is that it is very hard for the scientists to refuse the possibility that consciousness may not merely be a phenomenon of the brain.

10.5. H.H. the Dalai Lama in his book The Universe in a Single Atom admitted that such disquiet is entirely understandable given the dominance of the third-person scientific method as a paradigm for scientific investigation . And, yet  trying to bridge the two systems , he  explained that the Buddhist approach to the study of consciousness is based on the understanding of functions and modalities of the mind and their casual dynamics – and this is precisely the area that the Buddhist understanding can most readily intersect with scientific approach because , like that of science, much of the Buddhist investigation of consciousness is empirically based.

10.6. B. Alan Wallace who in his essay “Training the Attention and Exploring consciousness in Tibetan Buddhism “ examines the methods of attention training and exploring consciousness in Tibetan Buddhism, joined the issue by stating that without the subjective evidence provided by introspection, there would be no discipline of consciousness studies. He argued that these (Hindu and Buddhist) attention-enhancing methods present a challenge to modern researchers in the consciousness studies “to broaden the scope of legitimate methods of scientific inquiry so that the introspective exploration of consciousness may begin to rise to the levels of sophistication of objective means of studying brain correlates of conscious states.”

10.7. H.H . the Dalai Lama explained, Buddhist psychology does not catalogue the mind’s make up or even describes how the mind functions. But the primary aim of the Buddhist contemplative practice, he said, is to alleviate suffering especially the psychological and emotional afflictions and to clear those afflictions. And, Science too has contributed enormously to the lessening of suffering, especially the physical suffering. It is therefore appropriate, he said, science and spirituality make common cause.

10.8. And, he concluded on a hopeful note saying “ I believe that it is possible for Buddhism and modern science to engage in collaborative research in the understanding of consciousness while leaving aside the philosophical question. By bringing together these two modes of inquiry, both disciplines may be enriched. Such collaborative study will contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics of the human mind and its relation to suffering. ”

10.9. B. Alan Wallace considers that such collaboration would mutually benefit scientists and Buddhists. According to him, “one of the greatest potentials of the interface between Buddhism and science is that Buddhists may encourage scientists to question their materialistic assumptions and incorporate sophisticated systems of contemplative inquiry within the scientific community. …. Likewise, scientists may encourage Buddhists to question their own assumptions, to revitalize their own traditions of contemplative inquiry, and to integrate them with the empirical methods of modern science. In short, Buddhists and scientists may help each other in overcoming their tendencies to dogmatism and replace this with a fresh and open-minded spirit of empiricism.”

 

PLEASE ALSO READ THE COMMENTS AND RESPONSES . SOME OF THOSE ARE TRULY INTERESTING

Sources and References

Let’s hope such collaboration takes off the ground and some good comes of it.

Zen and Dhyâna By Prof.SK Ramachandra Rao; Kalpataru publications, Bangalore

B Allan Wallace  : http://www.alanwallace.org/spr08wallace_comp.pdf

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi; Harper Perennial; 1990

A Science of Consciousness: Buddhism (1), the Modern West (0)

B. Alan Wallace- Published in The Pacific World: Journal of the Institute of Buddhist Studies

Third Series, No. 4, Fall 2002, pp. 15-32

http://www.alanwallace.org/Pacific%20World%20Essay.pdf

Buddhism and Science: Confrontation and Collaboration by B. Alan Wallace

http://www.alanwallace.org/PDF%20NEW/Buddhism%20and%20Science%20Paper.pdf

Training the Attention and Exploring consciousness in Tibetan Buddhism – B. Alan Wallace

http://www.purifymind.com/AttentionTibetBudd.htm

What is Consciousness vs. Awareness?

http://www.meditationexpert.com/consciousness-studies/cs_what_is_consciousness.html

Mixing Buddhism and neuroscience to understand human consciousness

http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/what_buddhism_offers_science/

Consciousness – Indian Thought – Buddhist Systems

http://science.jrank.org/pages/8802/Consciousness-Indian-Thought-Buddhist-Systems.html

Daniel Dennett  on Consciousness – And a Buddhist Response

http://integral-options.blogspot.com/2008/01/daniel-dennett-on-consciousness-and.html

Vijñāna: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vij%C3%B1%C4%81na

ALL IMAGES ARE FROM INTERNET

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Buddhism, Indian Philosophy

 

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The Legacy Of Chitrasutra- Two-Pitalkhora

 

[This article and its companion posts may be treated as an extension of the series I posted on the Art of Painting in Ancient India .In the present set of articles , I propose to talk , briefly, about the influence of Chitrasutra – its outlook, its theories and its recommended practices – on the Indian mural paintings. In this process I propose to cover some , not all , of the main mural paints of India that succeeded Ajanta , such as : Pitalkhora (c.6th century), Badami (c, 6th century), Sittannavaasal (c.7th century), Pannamalai (7thcentury), Kailasanatha –Kanchipuram (8th century),Brihadeshwara – Tanjore (11thcentury), Lepakshi (16th century), Mattancheri (c.17th century) and Padmanabhapuram palace (18th century).I propose to round it up the discussion with a note on the sublime paintings of Shri S Rajam , who kept alive the tradition of Chitrasutra in the modern times.

The first article was meant to serve a brief introduction to the subject outlining the characteristics of the Chitrasutra tradition.

The present article attempts to give an account of the murals at Pitalkhora.]

Continued from the Legacy of Chitrasutra- One

The previous post viz. The Legacy of Chitrasutra- One  tried to present, as a backdrop, an outline of the general principles of the Chitrasutra tradition: its outlook, its concepts and theories; and its recommended practices. As mentioned, the school of Chitrasutra wielded enormous influence on the artists of the sub-continent, over about fifteen centuries. We shall now look at some celebrated murals of ancient India, which either belonged to the period of Ajanta or to sometime thereafter.

Pitalkhora

6. The caves

6.1. The Buddhist caves at Pitalkhora are the closest to Ajanta; both in terms of space and time. They too are situated in the Aurangabad region of Maharashtra; about 40km west of the famous rock- cut temples at Ellora. The Pitalkhora caves are cut into the side of a secluded ravineand are located deep inside a valley with a gentle stream running through it.

6.2. The set of fourteen caves of early- Buddhist period are similar to Ajanta; and are dated around second or third century BCE. Some scholars identify Pitalkhora with ‘Petrigala’ mentioned in Ptolemy’s history and with ‘Pitangalya ‘mentioned   in a Buddhist tantric text Mahamayuri of 3-4th century AD. The inscriptions found here (c. second century) indicate that ‘Pitangalya ‘had close connections with Pratishtana (modern Paithan), the capital of the Imperial Shatavahanas. Pitangalya was also an important trade centre along the caravan -route from Surparaka (Sapora) to Nasik, further north.

A unique feature of Pitalkhora is its ingenious arrangement to drain out the seepage that found its way into the cave through cracks in the rocks. Long tunnel like openings were bored into the ceilings and the water was channelled underneath the cave floor, in concealed drains, leading to outside cave entrance.

Pitalkhora caves occupy a significant place among the ancient Buddhist monuments of 2 C B.C. But, sadly the caves are in a poor state of preservation.

 

6.3.  Pitalkhora consisting of 14 Buddhist Caves forms one of the earliest centres of the rock-cut architecture; and are said to belong to about 2nd C BCE. The architectural and sculptural representations are similar to that of the Sanchi stupa; and are approximately of the same period. The sculptural remains at Pitalkhora include some   unusual sculptures; such as those of the wonderful animal motifs, miniature Chaitya windows, the elephants, yaksha (semi divine beings), dwarapala  (door-keepers) and mithuna (twin ) figures.

7. The paintings

7.1. As regards the paintings, only a few fragments of the murals dated around 5-6thcentury AD (of the time of Ajanta murals) can be seen in the Chaitya and Monastery Caves. The best paintings are in Cave 3. These appear on the pillars and side walls. They bear a strong resemblance to Ajanta style of painting; carrying forward the tradition of the Chitrasutra.

7.2. This is evident from the gentle expression and typical soulful eyes (characteristic of the Ajanta) depicted in the figure of a worshipper in a Pitalkhora fragment. The hair- do and colour scheme of the Pitalkhora fragment resembles greatly the Ajanta figures.

7.3. The Buddha figure to with its benign countenance and soulful eyes does resemble the Ajanta.

Next

The rock-cut cave temples of Badami, in North Karnataka, carved and sculpted mostly during the 6th and 8th centuries, depicting the art of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religious traditions.

 

References:

http://www.devi.org/pitalkhora.html

http://lavanya-indology.org/pitalkhora.html

http://asi.nic.in/asi_monu_whs_ellora_pitalkhora.asp

http://www.indiamonuments.org/Pitalkhora.htm

All pictures are from Internet

 

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Crazy Wisdom

1.1. Crazy wisdom is a way of teaching; and it is prevalent in almost all traditions.  It has been there for a very long-time. Crazy wisdom says, we all are, in truth, interconnected. The separations in the physical world such as human bodies, houses, communities are mere appearances.  Crazy Wisdom seeks to unearth and heal the false beliefs that people have about themselves and of the world around them. It is a means for expressing and maintaining the difference between the conventional point of view and the transcendental point of view.

1.2. The teaching might have gained that name- crazy – because its teachers were eccentrics who used their eccentricity to bring forth an alternate vision, the one that was different from the pedestrian and dogma-riddled view of existence. They were the masters of inversion, proficient breakers of taboos and lovers of surprises. They relished the delight in   contradictions and ambiguity. Sometimes they overdid and went overboard; and were mistaken for tricksters and clowns.

1.3. Crazy wisdom or holy-madness, as it came to be called, does indeed seem crazy to rational mind and commonsense. That is because it is designed, deliberately, to confront, to shock and to confuse an otherwise rational mind. The crazy teacher’s behaviour and his teachings turn the ordinary view of life upside down, and project life in a different perspective. His approach is what one might call “no-holds-bar”. The crazy teacher is willing to employ a large range of tactics and applications including , but not limited to ,provocation , insult, physical and mental abuse, humour, and credulity; and in extreme cases, it might stray in to use of alcohol, drugs and sex. All those unconventional and socially unacceptable ways of behaviour were pressed into service in order to drag the student out of the cocoon, strip him naked and bring him face to face with reality.

1.4. Predictably, such behavioural patterns create scare and conflict in the minds of even the committed followers of the path. It also brings into question, the issues of trust; and abuse of position and power. But a serous seeker will have to face those challenges and resolve the contradictions, all by himself.

1.5. The crazy wisdom or foolish wisdom is thus a two-edged sword, to be handled with extreme caution. The dividing line between wisdom and foolishness is very thin; and it is not possible to say with certainty when a fool is just a fool, or a fool graced by wisdom, or a wise person touched by foolishness.

1.6. In all such traditions, it is said, a genuine crazy –wisdom- teacher will act only in response to the needs of his student, regardless of his own discomfort and personal preferences. His main concern is the awakening of his student .But, it is   the responsibility of the student to understand and learn; and the teacher is not obliged to make it easy for the student.

1.7. It is explained, the teacher, to put it crudely, is like a dispensing machine. The student will have to come up with right questions to get the benefit of the teacher. It is the questions the student frames – internally or explicitly- and the demands he makes in seeking the answers that truly matter. He   can challenge himself to formulate a question that accurately captures the real need; and follow it with intensity. After a period of time, as he begins to endure the heat (tapa), generated by the genuine unanswered questions, the answers start appearing unexpectedly in the most unlikely places or in the most obvious places right under his nose.

That is the basis of the learning process under an Avadhuta or a Siddha or a Zen teacher or the saintly-madman (lama myonpa) of Tibetan Buddhism.

[ By the way, Aryadeva (14th century?), a Buddhist scholar, in his Chatuhsataka (four hundred verses) narrates a story to illustrate (a) madness is a relative concept; and (b) just because one is in a minority he cannot be dismissed as being wrong.

According to his story, a wandering astrologer warned a king that in a week’s time, very rain would pour down on his country; and whoever drinks that rainwater would go insane. The king took the astrologer’s warning quite seriously and ordered to get his well of drinking water well covered. His subjects, however, either lacking means or laughing at the astrologer, took no action to secure their sources of drinking water.  It did rain a week hence, as predicted; and the whole of the kingdom’s populace drank the rain water which found its way into their well and tanks. They all, promptly, went mad. The king who had protected his well was the only sane person in the whole of his kingdom.

But, the king’s subjects gathered together and laughed and jeered at the king calling him insane. After such repeated heckling, the king – the only sane person in the whole of the kingdom – could no longer endure the irritating jibes. In order to put an end to his agony, the king, at last, decides to drink the rain water. And, he promptly goes mad just as his subjects. Now, all are alike and all are happy in their madness.

Therefore, if one is the sole, single sane person, then he does not get to call the rest as insane. But, at the same time, he not wrong if he calls the rest as insane. Then, again, who will listen to him or pay heed to his words …!!

The story also illustrates how ‘madness’ is a relative concept, depending upon each one’s perspective. In the broader view, what defines madness is the social, cultural and other ways of understanding human behavior at different times and in different regions. Madness is thus a highly context-sensitive issue.]

****

2.1. Avadhuta, the one who has cast off all concerns and obligations, like the Shiva himself, is the typical teacher of wisdom. He does that in a highly unconventional manner. He has no use for social etiquette; he has risen above worldly concerns. He is not bound by sanyasi dharma either. He roams the earth freely like a child, like an intoxicated or like one possessed. He is the embodiment of detachment and spiritual wisdom..

Avadhuta Gita describes him as :

Having renounced all, he moves about naked./ He perceives the Absolute, the All, within himself.

ātmaiva kevalaṃ sarvaṃ bhedābhedo na vidyate । asti nāsti kathaṃ brūyāṃ vismayaḥ pratibhāti me ॥ 4॥

The Avadhuta never knows any mantra in Vedic meter or any Tantra.

 Ashtavakra Gita describes him in a similar manner:

17.15

The sage sees no difference/ Between happiness and misery,/ Man and woman, / Adversity and success./ Everything is seen to be the same.

sukhe duḥkhe nare nāryāṃ sampatsu ca vipatsu ca । viśeṣo naiva dhīrasya sarvatra samadarśinaḥ ॥ 17-15॥

17.16

In the sage there is neither/ Violence nor mercy,/ Arrogance nor humility,/ Anxiety nor wonder./ His worldly life is exhausted./ He has transcended his role as a person.

na hiṃsā naiva kāruṇyaṃ nauddhatyaṃ na ca dīnatā । nāścaryaṃ naiva ca kṣobhaḥ kṣīṇasaṃsaraṇe nare ॥ 17-16॥

17.18

The sage is not conflicted/ By states of stillness and thought./ His mind is empty./ His home is the Absolute.

samādhāna samādhāna hitāhita vikalpanāḥ । śūnyacitto na jānāti kaivalyamiva saṃsthitaḥ ॥ 17-18॥

18.9

Knowing for certain that all is Self,/ The sage has no trace of thoughts/ Such as “I am this” or “I am not that.”

ayaṃ so’hamayaṃ nāhaṃ iti kṣīṇā vikalpanā । sarvamātmeti niścitya tūṣṇīmbhūtasya yoginaḥ ॥ 18-9॥

18.10

The yogi who finds stillness/ is neither distracted nor focused./ He knows neither pleasure nor pain./ Ignorance dispelled,/ He is free of knowing.

na vikṣepo na caikāgryaṃ nātibodho na mūḍhatā । na sukhaṃ na ca vā duḥkhaṃ upaśāntasya yoginaḥ ॥ 18-10॥

**

2.2. Among the classical  texts that describe the nature of the Avadhuta,  the prominent ones  are the Avadhuta Gita , the culminating text of the Dattatreya tradition; the Ashtavakra Gita , a text of the highest order, addressed to advanced learners and  dealing  with the means of realizing the Self (atmanu-bhuti) and  the mystic experience  in the embodied state. The third and  a comparatively a recent text is the Atma-vidya-vilasa of  Sri Sadashiva Brahmendra , an Avadhuta who lived during the eighteenth century.

2.3. The other major sect is the Siddha tradition of South India. The Siddha is one who has attained flawless identity with reality.

Jainism too recognizes Siddha as an enlightened teacher. In the Tibetan Buddhism, Siddha is a yogi who has attained magical powers and the ability to work miracles.

2.4. In so far as the folk tradition is concerned, there are a number of regional groups and subgroups. The better known of them are the Bauls of Bengal; the word meaning mad or confused. They are a religious sect of eccentrics. The Baul synthesis is characterized by four elements: there is no written text and therefore all teachings are through song and dance; God is to be found in and through the body and therefore the emphasis on kaya (body) sadhana, the use of sexual or breathe energy; and, absolute obedience and reverence to Guru.

3.1. Avadhuta Gita the ‘Song of the Ever Free’ does not indulge in debates to prove the non-dual nor does it ask you to control your senses; it sees no distinction between sense perception and spiritual realization. It makes some amazing statements:

The mind indeed is of the form of space. The mind indeed is Omni faced. The mind is the past. The mind is present and future and all phenomena. But in absolute reality, there is no mind.

All your senses are like clouds; all they show is an endless mirage.  The Radiant One is neither bound nor free.I am the Bliss, I am the Truth, I am the Boundless Sky

There is neither knowledge nor ignorance nor knowledge combined with ignorance. He who has always such knowledge is himself Knowledge. It is never otherwise.

How shall I salute the formless being, indivisible, auspicious and immutable, who fills all this with its self and also fills the self with its self?
Know it firmly, freely, independently. And maintain it at all times, all conditions. That is all. Be Avadhuta Dattatreya yourself; because, you are yourself that.

3.2. In the Ashtavakra Gita, sage Ashtavakra maintains that all prayers, mantras, rituals, meditation, actions, devotion, breathing practices, etc are secondary. These distract the aspirant from self-knowledge. Knowledge/awareness is all that is required. Ignorance does not exist in itself; it is just the absence of knowledge or the lack of awareness. The light of knowledge or consciousness will dispel ignorance revealing the Self. The Self is merely forgotten, not lost.

This is not a belief system or a school of thought. This is simply ‘What Is’ and the recognition of ‘What is’.

Attachment and aversion/ Are attributes of the mind./ You are not the mind. You are Consciousness itself–Changeless, undivided, free./ Go in happiness

rāgadveṣau manodharmau na manaste kadācana । nirvikalpo’si bodhātmā nirvikāraḥ sukhaṃ cara ॥ 15-5॥

*
Ashtavakra does not pay much heed to book learning or to the importance given to mind and its control. You are already free, what will you gain by deliberating or pondering. Remain unattached at all times from all things (including the mind). He advocates direct approach. Teachings of Sri Ramana are remarkably similar to that of sage Ashtavakra.
 *

You can recite and discuss scripture / All you want,/ But until you drop everything / You will never know Truth.

ācakṣva śṛṇu vā tāta nānā śāstrā aṇyanekaśaḥ । tathāpi na tava svāsthyaṃ sarva vismaraṇād ṛte ॥ 16-1॥

*

Ashtavakra then attacks the futility of effort and knowing.

Being pure consciousness, / Do not disturb your mind with thoughts of for and against./ Be at peace and remain happily’ In yourself, the essence of joy.   15.19

mā saṅkalpavikalpābhyāṃ cittaṃ kṣobhaya cinmaya । upaśāmya sukhaṃ tiṣṭha svātmanyānandavigrahe ॥ 15-19॥

Give up meditation completely/ But don’t let the mind hold on to anything./ You are free by nature,/  So what will you achieve by forcing the mind? 15.20

tyajaiva dhyānaṃ sarvatra mā kiṃcid hṛdi dhāraya । ātmā tvaṃ mukta evāsi kiṃ vimṛśya kariṣyasi ॥ 15-20॥

I Am Awareness./ Where are principles and scriptures?/ Where is the disciple or teacher?’ Where is the reason for life?/ I am boundless, Absolute

kva māyā kva ca saṃsāraḥ kva prītirviratiḥ kva vā । kva jīvaḥ kva ca tadbrahma sarvadā vimalasya me ॥ 20-11॥

kva pravṛttirnirvṛttirvā kva muktiḥ kva ca bandhanam । kūṭasthanirvibhāgasya svasthasya mama sarvadā ॥ 20-12॥

**

 

3.3. Atma_vidya_vilasa is written in simple, lucid Sanskrit. Its subject is renunciation. It also describes the ways of the Avadhuta, as one who is beyond the pale of social norms , beyond Dharma , beyond good and evil; as  one who has discarded scriptures, shastras , rituals or even the disciplines prescribed for sannyasins;one who has gone beyond the bodily awareness , one who realized the Self and one immersed in the bliss of self-realization. He is absolutely free and liberated in every sense – one who “passed away from” or “shaken off” all worldly attachments and cares, and realized his identity with God. The text describes the characteristics of an Avadhuta, his state of mind, his attitude and behavior. The text undoubtedly is a product of Sadashiva Brahmendra’s own experience. It is a highly revered book among the Yogis and Sadhakas.

One of such Sadhakas who really emulated Sadashiva Brahmendra and evolved into an Avadhuta was the 34th  Acharya , the Jagad-guru  of Sri Sringeri Mutt, Sri Chandrasekhar Bharathi Swamiji. He studied Atma_vidya_vilasa intensely, imbibed its principles and truly lived according to that in word and deed. Unmindful of the external world, he roamed wildly in the hills of Sringeri like a child, an intoxicated, and an insane; and as one possessed, singing aloud the verses from Atma_vidya_vilasa:

Discard the bondages of karma. Wander in the hills immersed in the bliss of the Self -unmindful of the world like a deaf and a blind (AVV-15)

avadhūtakarmajālo jaḍabadhirāndhopamaḥ ko’pi । ātmārāmo yatir āḍaṭavīkoṇeśvaṭannāste ॥ 15॥

Rooted in the Brahman absorbed in the bliss within, he for a while meditates, for a while sings and dances in ecstasy. (AVV-21)

tiṣṭhanparatra dhāmni svīyasukhāsvādaparavaśaḥ kaścit । kvāpi dhyāyati kuhacidgāyati kutrāpi nṛtyati svaram ॥ 21॥

He sees nothing, hears nothing, and says nothing. He is immersed in Brahman and in that intoxication is motionless.(AVV-44)

paśyati kimapi na rūpaṃ na vadati na śṛṇoti kiñcidapi vacanam । tiṣṭhati nirupamabhūmani niṣṭhāmavalambya kāṣṭhavadyogī ॥ 44॥

4. 1.The Lankavatara Sutra of the Mahayana Buddhism is another text of the “crazy wisdom” tradition.  It was the text that Bodhidharma followed all his life and bequeathed it to his disciple and successor Hui K’o . Its basic thrust is on “inner enlightenment that does away with all duality.”  One of the recurrent themes in the Lankavatara Sutra is, not to rely on words to express reality. It holds the view that objects do not owe their existence to words that indicate them. The words themselves are artificial creations. Ideas, it says, can as well be expressed by looking steadily, by gestures, by a frown, by the movement of the eyes, by laughing, by yawning, or by the clearing of the throat, or by recollection, or by trembling.

Bodhidharma instructed his disciples to: “Leave behind the false, return to the true; make no discrimination between self and others. In contemplation, one’s mind should be stable, alert and clear like the wall; illuminating with compassion. “

4.2. In Zen too, the “holy madness” is widely used by the roshi (teacher). The adepts of Zen make use of shock techniques such as sudden shouting, abuses, physical violence, hand­clapping, paradoxical verbal responses, koans and riddles in order to induce satori or enlightenment.

4.3. Tibetan Buddhism also has its share of eccentric Lamas who use unconventional methods to initiate their disciples into enlightenment. Crazy wisdom in Tibetan is yeshe cholwa, where craziness and wisdom walk hand in hand. It is craziness gone wise rather than wisdom gone crazy. Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) and Karma Pakshi the second Karmapa are the celebrated crazy-wisdom – teachers in Tibetan Buddhism. They both were regarded as being able to overpower the phenomenal world. They demonstrated that what we call crazy is only crazy from the viewpoint of ego, custom and habit. Crazy wisdom is natural and effortless; not driven by the hope and fear.

There is also another set of “mad lamas (smyon‑pa) who reject  monastic tradition, ecclesi­astical hierarchy, societal conventions, and book learning.

4.4. Crazy wisdom is also practiced in Sufism, where it is known as “the path of blame.” Some Sufi mystics –majzubs – are known for their strange behaviour as well as for their heretical doctrine of their identification with the divine. The Sufi  practitioners of “crazy wisdom” pursue freedom and humility without concern for worldly consequences.

5.1. The crazy teachers were found not just in the East. Socrates was an archetypal wise fool who claimed that his wisdom was derived from his awareness of his ignorance.  His distinctive teaching method consisted in exposing the foolishness of the wise.

5.2. Even in the Christian tradition, the absurd notion that the fool may be wise and that the wise may be foolish—has long been in existence. It is often expressed as the “fool in Christ” or the “fool for Christ’s sake”. Here, foolish wisdom, the “holy folly”, is akin to “holy simplicity” or “learned ignorance”, which is an alternate way to rekindle the love of wisdom in the hearts of men and women. It is singular and sudden; and, is in contrast with the laborious common wisdom of the learned.

5.3. Europe in the sixth century seemed to be a great period for Crazy Adepts.  For instance, there was St. Simeon who liked to pretend insanity for effect.  Once he found a dead dog on a dung heap.  He tied the animal to his belt and dragged the corpse through town.  People of the town were outraged.  But, he was trying to demonstrate the uselessness of excess emotional “dead weight” that people drag through their lives.

The very next day, St. Simeon entered a church and just as the liturgy began, he threw nuts at the congregation.  St Simeon revealed on his deathbed that his life’s mission was to denounce hypocrisy and hubris.

5.4. Another example of the sixth-century spiritual silliness was Mark the Mad, a desert monk who was thought insane when he came into town to atone for his sins.  Only Abba Daniel saw the method in the monk’s madness, and declared the monk the only reasonable man in the city.

5.5. Saint Francis of Assisi was another example of foolish wisdom. He regarded himself as a fool deserving nothing but contempt and dishonour. He is cel­ebrated for his tender love for God and for God’s creatures, big and small.

6.1. The paradoxical idea that the fool may be wise is perhaps as old as humanity itself. It is a common experience that the untutored and innocent, including children, somehow seem to grasp profound truths, while the lettered and the learned just walk past it. Jesus alluded to it  when he thanked  and praised  God  for having hidden from the learned and the clever what he revealed to the merest children (Mt 11:25).

6.2. Without love, foolishness is just foolishness; and wisdom a mere collection of inflated bits of information. Ultimately, the fool­ish wisdom is a gift, a revelation received in humility of mind and simplicity of heart; an un-bounded, luminous, loving energy. It attains the power to convince and transform, more effectively than the sword and rhetoric.

That is possible only when it is graced by tender love for the fellow beings and for the fellow seekers.

 

 

Sources and References:

 http://www.spiritual-endeavors.org/basic/crazy.htm

Crazy Spirituality

http://eapi.admu.edu.ph/eapr002/wisdom.htm

Wisdom of the Holy Fools

http://www.onelittleangel.com/wisdom/quotes/book.asp?mc=319

Avadhuta

http://www.shambhala.org/teachings/view.php?id=131

Crazy Wisdom

Ashtavakra

Sri Sadashiva Brahmendra

 Zen Stories by Sylvan Incao

 

 

 
7 Comments

Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Bodhidharma, Buddhism, Indian Philosophy, Vedanta, Zen

 

Tags: , , , ,

Origins of Zen School


1.1. Mahakasyapa was an enlightened disciple of the Buddha. One day, while Mahakasyapa was sitting with the Master, in silence, the Master picked up a lotus flower and held it in front of him. Mahakasyapa, at once smiled knowingly; he understood the master’s teaching. That teaching was an instant communication, a direct meeting of the hearts without use of words. It was a secret teaching; but Mahakasyapa did not keep the secret. He passed it on to his disciples. The later scholars remarked,” If you do not understand, then it is the secret of Sakyamuni. If you do understand, it is Mahakasyapa not keeping the secret”.

1.2. That was how the Dhyana School was born. Its emphasis was on one’s own experience; and asked its students to desist from borrowing others’ experiences. It therefore discouraged undue reliance on what one heard or read. Its teaching had four main aspects:

  • Transmission of the instructions is beyond book learning.
  • It is not couched in words and letters.
  • It points directly to the human mind.
  • It lets one see into one’s own true nature and leads to attaining Buddha- hood.

1.3. The tradition of Dhyana masters began with Mahakasyapa. After the passing away of the Buddha, Ananda, his cousin, became a disciple of Mahakasyapa and received the wordless instruction. The Dhyana School counts 28 masters in the line of Mahakasyapa. They include great names such as Ananda, Asvaghosha, Nagarjuna and Vasabhandu. The twenty-seventh in the lineage was Prajnatara, whose disciple was the 28th Dhyana master Bodhidharma, who also became the first patriarch of the Dhyana –> Cha’n – > Zen schools of China and Japan.

Tibetan sources mention him as Bodhidharmottara  or Dharmottara (Dharma of enlightenment) . Bodhidharma is presumably a shortened form of that name. Let’s , however , stick to the standard usage.

2.1. According to some sources, Bodhidharma (470-543 AD) hailed from Kanchipuram in south India; and was a Pallava prince.  He was the third son of Simhavarman II; and a contemporary of Skandavarman IV and Nandivarman I. He was the disciple of Prajnatara. Bodhidharma lived with his teacher for nearly forty years, until the teacher’s demise. Thereafter, as per the wish of his teacher, Bodhidharma left for China. He arrived at the port city of Kwan-tan (Canton), along the southern coast of China, during the year 520. He was honored by the Chinese emperor Wu-li in whose court was the great translator Paramartha. Bodhidharma soon left the palace headed north and crossed the Yangtze River. He continued moving north until he arrived at the Temple in Ho Nan Province. It was here that Bodhidharma meditated for nine years facing a wall, not uttering a sound for the entire time.

 

2.2. After he initiated his disciple Hui-k’o into Dhyana, Bodhidharma moved on to Chen Sung (One Thousand Saints) Temple to propagate the Dharma. He passed away in 543 AD. It is said Bodhidharma was buried in Shon Er Shan (Bear Ear Mountain) in Ho Nan, and a stupa was built for him in Pao Lin Temple. Later, the Tang dynasty Emperor, Dai Dzong, bestowed on Bodhidharma the name Yuen Che Grand Zen Master, and renamed his stupa as Kong Kwan (Empty Visualization).

Bodhi01


2.3. There is a legend connected with his death; it surely does not sound real and yet, is interesting. It says, soon after his death, someone saw Bodhidharma walking towards India barefoot and with a single shoe in hand. His grave was later exhumed, and according to legend, the only thing found in it was the shoe he left behind.

For nine years he had remained and nobody knew him;
carrying a shoe in hand he went home quietly, without ceremony.

Another legend says that Bodhidharma, during his last days, remarked, “I came to China and transmitted my Dharma to three people. One received my marrow, one received my bones, and one received my flesh.” After the transmission,   Hui K’o received the marrow and Tao Yu received the bones.  A bikshuni Tsang Chih received Bodhidharma’s flesh. And, in the end Bodhidharma had no body at all.

2.4. His main teaching which has impacted Zen was taken from Vajrasamadhi Sutra:” Be at rest in all things and seek nothing, for Buddha-hood is attained by perceiving one’s own true nature.”

[There are varying accounts of Bodhidharma’s early life; his arrival and life in China. Some accounts mention that Bodhidharma lived for 150 years.]

3.1. Bodhidharma was the first patriarch of the Chinese Cha’n School. But, he was not the first one to bring Buddhism into China.  By the time he arrived, the teachings of the Buddha were already prevalent in China. It is not clear when exactly the Buddha’s teachings entered China. In any event, Tao-sheng (360-434 AD) the disciple of the Indian saint Kumara-jiva (ca. 400 AD) had been a well recognized Buddhist teacher. Tao-sheng, following the footsteps of his teacher, advocated the practice of meditation and rejected mere book learning; he also spoke of enlightenment or awakening.

3.2. Bodhidharma relied, to a large extent, on the premier text of Yogachara School of the Mahayana Buddhism: the Lankavatara Sutra. It is regarded a difficult text; and, its basic thrust is on “inner enlightenment that does away with all duality and is raised above all distinctions.”

One of the recurrent themes in the Lankavatara Sutra is, not to rely on words to express reality. It holds the view that objects do not owe their existence to words that indicate them. The words themselves are artificial creations. Ideas, it says, can as well be expressed by looking steadily, by gestures, by a frown, by the movement of the eyes, by laughing, by yawning, or by the clearing of the throat, or by recollection, or by trembling.

Bodhidharma in China

3.3. Bodhidharma instructed his disciples to follow a certain principle; and to practice.

The principle was to: “Leave behind the false, return to the true; make no discrimination between self and others. In contemplation, one’s mind should be stable ,  alert and clear  like the wall ; illuminating  with compassion. .”  He warned, it might sound like the direct, easy path to enlightenment, but it is, in fact, difficult. Bodhidharma’s rigors life long sadhana was  a testimony to that.

[The wall in these contexts carries a special meaning. All mental activities are like murals on a wall. Without the wall there can be no paintings; but the paintings hide the wall, cover it up and hide it from the view. The wall, here, stands for awareness (prajna), free from all thoughts. This (wall) is the original mind or no- mind, as the Buddhists call it. To get back to that blemish– less wall is the aim off Cha’n (Zen) practice.

The wall in this context is analogues to the clear cloudless sky that Vedanta talks about.

The mind is formless like the sky,
Yet it wears a million faces.
It appears as images of the past, or as worldly forms;
But it is not the supreme Self.
All your senses are like clouds;
All they show is an endless mirage.
The Radiant One is neither bound nor free.
I am the Bliss, I am the Truth, I am the Boundless Sky.
–  Avadhuta Gita

This was also what Bodhidharma  taught.]

The practice involved:

(i)The willingness to accept, without complaining, suffering and unhappiness because you understand it is your own karma.

(ii) Understanding that all situations are the consequences of karmic causes, and therefore, you maintain equanimity in all circumstances, both negative and positive.

(iii)  Acting in accordance with ones Dharma (one’s own nature or svabhava) which is therefore pure. Realizing through practice the essence of one’s Nature, which is equanimity.

3.4. It is said, the following four-line stanza captures Bodhidharma’s teaching. Its first two lines echo the Lankavatara Sutra’s disdain for words and its latter two lines stress the importance of the insight into reality.]

A special transmission outside the scriptures,
Not founded upon words and letters;
By pointing directly to [one’s] mind
It lets one see into [one’s own true] nature and [thus] attain Buddhahood
.

buddha-meditation-song

3.5. Bodhidharma approached Buddhism in the most direct, simple and practical way. He grasped that enlightenment was the most fundamental aspect of Buddhism; and , that did not need   either sacred scriptures, rituals or objects of worship,  though all of which had  somehow become a part  of Mahayana Buddhism in India. . He discouraged superstitious veneration of the Buddhas .The practice of meditation, according to him, was the key to awakening ones inner nature, compassion and wisdom

3.6. Bodhidharma’s method also implied that Dhyana is not an intellectual exercise one can learn from books. Instead, it’s a practice of studying mind and seeing into one’s nature. The face-to-face transmission of the Dharma was important. That meant, the student and the teacher have to work together face -to – face. This made the student–teacher relation critical to its success. Consequently, the lineage of teachers also became important.

Ultimately, Dhyana is about coming face-to-face with yourself, in a very direct and intimate way. And, that is not easy.

4.1. Bodhidharma’s teaching became known as the Cha’n sect for its primary focus on cha’n (Dhyan) training and practice. Shortly before his death, Bodhidharma appointed Hui-k’o (486 -593) to succeed him, making Hui-k’o the first Chinese born patriarch and the second patriarch of Cha’n in China. Bodhidharma is said to have passed three items to Hui-k’o as a sign of transmission of the Dharma: a robe, a bowl, and a copy of the Lankavatara Sutra. The following verse is attributed to Hui-k’o:

From the seed bed
Flowers rise.
Yet there is no seed
Nor are there flowers
*
The “seed bed “refers to the heart, which is the ground on which the mind rests and rises. It is what is called the original-mind, devoid of thought constructions (mano vikalpa).The seeds of enlightenment are hidden in it. The flowers of wisdom sprout from those seeds only when there is a seed-bed. But, if the seed-bed is void it has no flowers, no attributes.
 
 

This is analogues to what the Upanishads call nirguna (devoid of attributes), daharakasha (the subtle space within the heart). It is in the nature of void; it has no form; and, it is all pervasive. It is the substratum of all existence.

*

 

4.2. The Third Chinese Patriarch after Bodhidharma was Jianzhi Sengcan, a Taoist, best known for his verses on Faith-Mind. The opening lines of his gatha read:

Follow your nature and accord with Tao
Saunter along and stop worrying.
If your thoughts are tied, you spoil what is genuine.
Don’t be antagonistic to the senses
For when you are not antagonistic to it
It turns out to be the same as complete awakening
The wise person does not strive (wu wei)
The arrogant man ties himself up
If you work on your mind with your mind,
How can you avoid immense confusion?
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
 (D.T.Suzuky’s translation)
*

He advised “Let your mind alone; trust it to follow its own nature.” This is typical of Indian outlook too. We find its formulation in Upanishads. And, this became the main stay of the Mahayana Buddhism, which in turn had pervasive influence on the developments in the Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese traditions.

4.3. The fourth Chinese patriarch was Dayi Daoxin (580 -651); and he was followed by Daman Hongren (601-674).

4.4. The most famous teacher was Hui-Neng (638-713 AD), the sixth and the last Chinese patriarch. He appears to have led an adventures life. He had a huge following. It was during his time that Cha’n entered the realm of fully documented history. Cha’n school, during his time, also emerged out of Indian influence and acquired its unique Chinese characteristics. During his time, the Cha’n school of thought took a definite form. Later, the school branched into five major sects or five houses, which in due course consolidated into two streams of practices. They were Tsao-tung (Sato in Japan) and Lin-chi (Rinzai in Japan).The former retained the simple teachings of Bodhidharma, the serene reflections in silent meditation. The latter branch made the Koan- exercise its corner stone. It is in essence, working on the solution to problem which has no solution; trying to understand something which is not meant to be understto; and it is where talking (hua) ends (tou).

5.1. How Cha’n travelled to Japan, transformed to Zen and wove into the spiritual, artistic, cultural and social fabric of Japan is a long story. As regards Zen as spiritual practice, suffice it to say, it reached Japan in several waves; and each significant wave gave rise to a Zen sect.

5.2. Línjì Yìxuan (Rinzai Gigen, in Japanese) (ca.806), of China, was well trained in Cha’n by the Cha’n master Huang-Po Hsi-Yun. He later gained fame as an accomplished Cha’n master; and, by around the year 851, he founded the Linji school of Cha’n Buddhism. The Linji School ultimately became the most successful and widespread of the Five Houses (Schools) of Cha’n.

5.3. By around this time, the Cha’n practices had entered Japan but were not recognized as separate schools of spiritual enquiry.  However, later during the twelfth century, Myoan Eisai traveled to China to study Cha’n of the Linji School: and on his return to Japan he established a sect of Linji lineage. The sect founded by him in Japan came to be known as Rinzai School.

5.4.  Much later, that is, during the seventeenth century a Chinese monk named Yinyuan Longqi (Japanese name: Ingen Ryuki) also a member of the Linji School of Cha’n introduced into Japan another sect of Cha’n; It was called Obaku – named after Mount Obaku near Ingen Ryuki’s hometown in China.

The Rinzai and Obaku schools share common heritage traced back to Hui-neng the sixth and the last Chinese patriarch; and therefore they are closely related.

5.5. In the meantime , that is around the year 1215, Dogen, a younger contemporary of Myoan Eisai,  also visited China and studied Cha’n under Caodong teacher Tiantong Rujing .On his return Dogen established Soto school , the Japanese branch of Caodong.

5.6. Cha’n as it arrived in Japan acquired the name Zen, which is an abbreviation of the term Zenna (the Japanese form of the Mandarin: Channa) derived from the Sanskrit term Dhyana, Pali Jhana; all of which refer to a type or specific aspect of meditation.

5.7. The schools of Zen that currently exist in Japan are Soto, Rinzai and Obaku. Of these, Soto has the largest following and Obaku has the smallest following. Rinzai is itself divided into several branches, based on affiliations to various temples.

6.  Much has been written concerning the differences between Rinzai and Soto Zen though both advocate study of koans and practice Zazen (sitting meditation). The differences are mainly in the emphasis rather than in their contents. Soto Zen considers the practice of Zazen to be the sole means of realization. While in Rinzai Zen practice, a koan is examined while sitting in order to deepen insight. Soto is considered the more conservative of the two. Rinzai takes a more liberal, at times radical view of the Buddha-nature. The Soto Zen believes the awakening can happen gradually; while Rinzai believes awakening can occur in a flash of insight. In either case, awakening comes as the result of one’s own efforts.

zen-mood-bokeh-garden

7.1. Though Zen recognized the validity of the Buddhist scriptures, it created its own set of texts, over the generations, written in informal language studded with folk sayings and street slang. Zen literature came to be built around anecdotes of its masters; the Buddha is barely mentioned. It is flavoured by a mix of Taoism, Confucianism and Chinese poetry.

7.2. Zen Buddhism’s emphasis on simplicity and the importance of the natural world generated a distinctive aesthetic style that influenced almost all walks of life say, art, literature, landscaping, gardening, tea ceremonies etc.

7.3. The Zen school eventually emerged as the most successful school of Buddhism in China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam. By the mid-1980’s, the Zen traditions of all these countries had been transmitted to America.

8.1. Zen had its roots in India, undoubtedly; but its immediate ancestor and inspiration was the Cha’n school of the Chinese. During the time of Hui-Neng (638-713 AD), the sixth patriarch, the Cha’n school shed its Indian influences and became characteristically Chinese. And, Cha’n, when it moved into and took root in Japan, it became Zen- typically Japanese. It was no longer the simple Indian ideology; and, Zen had acquired a sophisticated, aesthetic style that influenced al walks of life.

8.2. But, the basic tenets of Zen and its “view” was the one provided by Bodhidharma .The enquiry into the nature of the Self, the symbol of the Buddha-hood latent in every living being, forcefully pronounced by Bodhidharma flowered into Cha’n School; and, that had its roots in the Upanishads. The understanding of Zen will be complete when it is viewed as a flowering of the Upanishads.

Buddhas don’t save Buddhas.
If you use your mind to look for a Buddha, you won’t see the Buddha.
As long as you look for a Buddha somewhere else,
You’ll never see that your own mind is the Buddha.
Don’t use a Buddha to worship a Buddha.
And don’t use the mind to invoke a Buddha.
Buddhas don’t recite sutras. Buddhas don’t keep precepts.
And Buddhas don’t break precepts.
Buddhas don’t keep or break anything.
Buddhas don’t do good or evil.
To find a Buddha, you have to see your nature.
-Attributed to Bodhidharma
***

There are no divine scriptures, no world, no imperative religious practices;
There are no gods, no classes or races of men,
No stages of life, no superior or inferior;
There’s nothing but Brahman, the supreme Reality.

 I do not know Shiva; how can I speak of Him?
I do not know Shiva; how can I worship Him?
I , myself, am Shiva, the primal Essence of everything;
My nature, like the sky, remains ever the same.
–  Avadhuta Gita
****
 buddha-wallpapers

Please also read: Bodhidharma -stories and Legends

 

References and Sources:

Dhyana and Zen by Prof. SKR Rao

The 28th Patriarch of Indian Buddhism:  http://sped2work.tripod.com/bdharma.html

Bodhidharma:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhidharma

Zen History:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen#Early_history

What is Zen:  http://www.dharmanet.org/lczen.htm

Zen Buddhism:  http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/zen/hd_zen.htm

 
15 Comments

Posted by on September 16, 2012 in Bodhidharma, Buddhism, Zen

 

Tags: , , ,

Citta the preacher

Among the followers of the Buddha there were many lay disciples , the householders, who excelled in the understanding of the Dhamma and in preaching the Dhamma . The foremost among them was Citta .He was the model that the Buddha urged others to emulate .He was the foremost disciple in expounding the Dhamma.On one occasion, the Buddha said to the monks: “Should a devoted mother wish to encourage her beloved only son in a proper way she should say to him: ‘Try to become like the disciple Citta “

A wealthy merchant who owned the hamlet of Macchikāsanda near the city of Savatthi celebrated the birth of a son by covering the village streets with flowers of various hues. The streets at once looked colorful and picturesque . The baby boy was hence promptly named Cittagahapati . His family and friends called him , for short , Citta . Because of his birth in Macchikāsanda , he also acquired the name Macchikásandika. The boy grew up to be a bright and an articulate young man . Besides his family trade Citta acted as the Treasurer of the City Council of Savatthi, where he now lived. He also owned a tributary village called Migapattaka . He had a resort in the grove Ambarukkhavana, in his native village of Macchikāsanda .

Once when the monk the Elder Mahānāma visited Macchikāsanda, Citta, pleased with his demeanor, invited him , for a meal at the Ambarukkhavana grove .Citta was so impressed with the discourse delivered by the monk that at its conclusion he dedicated the Ambarukkhavana grove to the Sangha . Later he built a splendid monastery there for the use of monks . The monastery came to be celebrated as the Ambātakārāma; and was the residence of a large numbers of monks . Discussions often took place there between Cittagahapati and the resident Bhikkhus . Among eminent Elders who visited the Ambātakārāma were Isidatta of Avanti , Mahaka of magical powers ,Kāmabhū ,Godatta and the Elder Lakuntaka Bhaddiya who lived there in solitude and in meditation . A monk named Sudhamma was another permanent resident of the Ambātakārāma .

Citta , by diligence and dedication , not only grasped the heart of the Dhamma but also became quite an adept in explaining the Dhamma. The Buddha considered Citta the most learned and lucid of all the lay Dharma teachers. The Buddha recognized Citta as the foremost in expounding the Dhamma .He held up Citta as a model for others to follow. The Tipitaka contains discourses preached to and by Citta . The sixty-first section in Tipitaka , Citta Samyutta Nikáya is named after him and contains a record of his discussions . In the Samyutta Nikaya there are two sutras wherein he discussed Dhamma with the monks. They indicate his profound grasp of the subtle aspects of the Dhamma.

The first documented teaching by Citta relates to a discussion that a group of monks were having at the Ambātakārāma monastery . The discussion was about whether it is the sense objects that fetter the mind ; or whether it is the sense organs that cause the fetters or whether fetters and sense objects are one and the same. Citta joined the discussion and explained by using a simile .“ Suppose a black ox and a white ox were tied together with a yoke or rope. Now , would it be right to say that the black ox was the fetter of the white ox or that the white ox was the fetter of the black ox?” he explained “Certainly not; The black ox is not the fetter of the white ox nor is the white ox the fetter of the black ox. They are both fettered by the yoke or rope. Similarly, the eye is not the fetter of visual objects nor are visual objects the fetter of the eye .The sense faculties do not bind the external objects. Instead, they are bound or yoked by craving.”. The monks were delighted by Citta’s lucid explanation .

On another occasion, the monk Kamabhu, perplexed by one of the Buddha’s sayings, asked Citta if he could explain what it meant. The saying was:

Pure-limbed, white-canopied, one-wheeled,
The chariot rolls on.
Look at he who is coming,
He is a faultless stream-cutter, he is boundless.

Citta explained the verse with understanding and insight. He said: “‘Pure-limbed’ means virtue, ‘white-canopied’ means freedom, ‘one wheeled’ means mindfulness, ‘rolls on’ means coming and going. ‘Chariot’ means the body, ‘he who is coming’ means the enlightened one, ‘stream’ means craving, ‘faultless’, ‘stream-cutter’ and ‘boundless’ all mean one who has destroyed the defilements.” Citta’s ability to give a spiritual interpretation to what appeared to be merely a beautiful verse surprised and delighted Kamabhu .

The laymen and Bhikkhus respected Citta as a great teacher. Citta used his knowledge to help both believers and non-believers.

It appears that Citta did not formally join the Order though he had encouraged many of his friends to do so. That might have been because of his certain commitments in his personal life as a householder.

Citta’s visit to the Buddha at the Jetavana monastery is recorded in the Canon. It is said , Citta loaded five hundred carts with food and other offerings for the Buddha and his disciples visited Savatthi, accompanied by three thousand followers. They traveled at the rate of one yojana a day and reached Savatthi at the end of a month. Then Citta went ahead with five hundred of his companions to the Jetavana monastery and fell at the feet of the Buddha. Citta stayed at the monastery for one whole month offering alms-food to the Buddha and the bhikkhus ; and also feeding his own party of three thousand. All this time, his stock of food and other offerings. were being replenished. The Buddha preached to him the Salāyatana-vibhatti.

The Salāyatana-vibhatti Sutta is a series of definitions of the

six internal senses,
* six external sense objects,
* six groups of consciousness,
* six groups of contacts,
* eighteen mental researches,
* thirty six tracks for creatures,
* six satisfactions to the banished,
* three bases of mindfulness, and
* the supreme trainer of the human heart. 

On the eve of his return journey, Citta put all the things he had brought with him in the rooms of the monastery as offerings to the Buddha .The Buddha said, “Ananda, this disciple is fully endowed with faith and generosity; he is also virtuous and his reputation spreads far and wide. Such a one is sure to be revered and showered with riches wherever he goes.”

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

He who is full of faith and virtue, who also possesses fame and fortune, is held in reverence wherever he goes.

The Dhammapada Atthakatha says that once Citta made offerings to some monks and one of the monks was rather rude. He was therefore rebuked by Citta . The monk complained to the Buddha against Citta but Buddha rebuked him and asked him to apologize to Citta (the monk became an arahant eventually).

The Buddha uttered the following Verses to the monks :

The fool will desire undue reputation, precedence among monks,
authority in the monasteries, honor among families.

Let both laymen and monks think, “by myself was this done;
in every work, great or small, let them refer to me.”
Such is the ambition of the fool; his desires and pride increase.

Asantam bhavanamiccheyya / purekkharanca bhikkhusu / avasesu ca issariyam / pujam parakulesu ca.

Mameva kata mannantu / gihi pabbajita ubho / mamevativasa assu/ kiccakiccesu kismici / iti balassa sankappo/ iccha mano ca vaddhati

When Citta lay ill just before his death, he did not wish for heaven because he did not aspire to anything so impermanent. True to his calling he gave his last advice to those gathered around his death bed. Citta requested them to have trust and confidence in the Buddha and the Dhamma ; and to remain unswervingly generous to the Sangha.

Citta was an ideal lay disciple , an ideal preacher and an ideal son.

****

Should a devoted mother wish to encourage her beloved only son in a proper way she should say to him:

‘Try to become like the disciple Citta

buddha-tashkent-behl

Reference:
http://www.budsas.org/ebud/rdbud/rdbud-05.htm

 
5 Comments

Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Buddha, Buddhism

 

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Mahayana Buddhism in India

Buddhism as it is practiced today has three principal branches viz. Theravada (the school of the elders), Mahayana (the greater Vehicle) and Vajrayana (the diamond vehicle).Of the three the Mahayana is spread over a wider geographical area. It covers the vast populace of  China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan. It is also more diverse in its content as it encompasses a variety of Buddhist schools .It is more emotional, warmer, and more personal in devotion, more ornate in art, literature and ritual. It also has a record of striving to invent or include doctrines agreeable to the masses of the region. It is even seen as being closer to Hinduism as far as the rituals and practices are concerned

It is in this context that, recently, someone on the Forum asked me a question concerning the proximity of Mahayana Buddhism to Hinduism .The question specifically asked was:

IS it not true that Mahayana is essentially the way that Buddhism tried to come to terms with Hinduism the main religion of the day? I see Mahayana as the way Buddhism tried to survive in India

Let me at the outset say that I do not quite agree with the tenor of the question. I also do not agree with its drift or content. Let me explain why I think so.

Gandhara_Buddha_(tnm)cropped

A. Birth of the Mahayana

1. The concept of Mahayana came about because of the churning of ideas within the Buddhist community at the beginning of the Christian era. A large section of the community strongly felt there was a need for a more emotional, warmer, personal religion adequately disposed to evolution and development. The general tradition connects this evolution to the initiatives of King Kanishka (c 120 A. D) and scholars of the time such as Ashvaghosha (c 120 A. D)  and Nagarjuna (c 150 A D).

3. Though the concept of Mahayana was launched, officially, at the fourth religious council held at Kashmir in first century A.D, the germ- idea was in circulation even a hundred years earlier to that, more as a matter of speculation and argument than as a precise statement.

The evolution of the Mahayana concept came about as a gradual unfolding rather than as a sudden development.

4. At the time when the Mahayana doctrine came up for debate in the fourth religious council, nearly years 500 after the historical Buddha attained nirvana, Buddhism had well taken roots in India. It was popular among the masses. It also enjoyed the patronage of kings and Emperors.

 It was therefore, at that time, not in desperate need of a ruse for survival. The Mahayana did not take birth as a reaction to Hinduism.

B. Mahayana is not a departure from teachings of Buddha 

5. The Mahayana is not a departure from the doctrines enunciated by the historical Buddha. Both the schools – Theravada and Mahayana- accept the fundamental teaching of Buddha implicitly without any questions. Both the schools argue that the basic tenets of their school emanate directly from the teachings of the Buddha. Followers of Mahayana insist they have not deviated from the teachings of the Buddha instead, they claim to have rediscovered the Buddha’s lost teachings. Many scholars say that Nagarjuna grasped the Buddha’s “seed- idea” of void Sunyata and developed it into a system of thought in his book Madhyamika Karika.

C. Theravada – Mahayana

Prajnaparamita_Java

6. An obvious difference between the two schools is the Bodhisattva ideal. Both schools accept the three Yanas or Bodhis but consider the Bodhisattva ideal as the highest. The Mahayana accepts many mystical Bodhisattvas while the Theravada considers Bodhisattva as a human amongst humankind and as one who devotes his life for the attainment of perfection and who ultimately becomes a fully Enlightened Buddha for the welfare and happiness of the world. The Mahayana transfers the emphasis from personal salvation to universal salvation, from the ideal of Arhant to that of the Bodhisattva. It said, a monk should not be a lamp unto himself, while there is darkness every where

Perhaps, at some point of time, it was thought that the way of the Arhant meant complete detachment from the world. It was considered desirable that one should remain in the world out of compassion for the benefit of all beings striving to attain enlightenment (Bodhichitta), to become a Buddha. Let me add, the status of the Buddha was regarded an ideal. The Buddha was never looked upon as unique: there had been many others in the past ages. The Buddha is the supreme ideal. Anyone could strive to reach there. The conduct through which Gautama had become the Buddha was described in ancient texts. Therefore, every ardent seeker motivated by compassion for all beings (as did the Gautama) is a Bodhisattva, the Buddha in making.  The progress was partly through practices, and partly through right-understanding (prajna); the latter being more important. After some early Mahayana Sutras furthered the concept of Bodhisattva many more Sutras elaborated on the theme.

7. During the initial times, the difference between the two schools was not that apparent. As the Chinese traveler I- Ching (635-713 A.D.) put it, “Those who worship Bodhisattvas and read Mahayana Sutras are called Mahayanists, while those who do not do this are called Hinayanists”. It was that simple.

8. However the differences became explicit over a period when (a) each schools adopted its chosen texts –Pali texts by Theravada and Sanskrit texts by Mahayana; and;(b)when the two schools moved away to distinct geographical areas like Sri Lanka ,Burma , Far East on one hand and Tibet , China and Japan on the other.

1024px-BuddhistTriad

D. Reforms within Mahayana

9. The challenges that Mahayana Buddhism faced in distant lands and diverse cultures called upon it to innovate. Buddhism that took root in those countries was not the same as the one practiced in India at the time. For instance, in order to be acceptable to the populace of Tibet it was necessary  that Buddhism evolve itself into a new form by letting in Bon practices and ideas while firmly retaining its basic Buddhist tenets. In the process, Buddhism took in materials and attitudes native to the soil, lent them a new sense of direction and grafted them with the Mahayana doctrines. It allowed many Bon attitudes, ideas, tribal gods, goddesses, and the associated rituals and instilled in them the spirit of Karuna. Thus, while the form was traditional to the soil, the soul was Buddhist.  Bon at the same time also adopted numerous Buddhist practices, attitudes and ideas.

A similar process took place in China and Japan where Buddhism imbibed the rituals, practices, attitudes and even deities of the native religions (Tao and Shinto) while retaining the essential Buddhist doctrines at heart. Those religions intern also modified themselves. It was/is a dynamic process.

10 Thus, Mahayana Buddhism became an umbrella concept for a great variety of sects, from the Tantric Sects found in Tibet and Nepal (secret Yoga teachings), to the Pure Land Sects found in China, Korea and Japan (reliance on simple faith- Bhakthi). The Mahayana also gave birth to an inward-looking Chan Buddhism (China), which then crossed the straights to Japan and flowered as Japanese Zen. For Chan and Zen followers, the path to enlightenment is meditation.

In fact, some scholars go further and say the Mahayana is not a single vehicle but rather a train comprising many carriages of different classes.

11 . Despite this proliferation in beliefs, Mahayana Buddhism tapers down to two general branches — the Madhyamika and the Yogacara.  While Madhyamika represents the middle view, the middle road, a path of relativity over extremes (e.g., extremes like existence vs. nonexistence, self vs. non-self); The  Yogachara  school emphasizes yoga — the practice of meditation. In either case, the path to enlightenment is long and arduous, requiring followers to build up merit in this life to be reborn in the next life with better karma.

E. Mahayana-Hinduism

12. Now, before coming to issue of Hindu influence we can digress a bit. While discussing the similarities among various Indian languages Prof. Emeneau, a well-known American scholar, in his classic paper, “India as a Linguistic Area”, came up with the concept of linguistic area for explaining the underlying Indian-ness of apparently divergent cultural and linguistic patterns. The resemblances between two or more languages (whether typological or in vocabulary), he said, can be due to genetic relation (descent from a common ancestor language), or due to borrowing at some time in the past between languages. He also said, essentially different but geographically and physically proximate languages often exhibit shared linguistic features.

We can perhaps extend this view to cover various religions that took birth or that took root in India. Amanda Coomaraswamy , the great scholar, once said “The more superficially one studies Buddhism, the more it seems to differ from Brahmanism in which it originated; the more profound our study, the more difficult it becomes to distinguish Buddhism from Brahmanism, or to say in what respects, if any, Buddhism is really unorthodox.”. The Buddha did not fight the religion of India of his time .He had a benevolent view towards it and its scholars. He however objected to the ritualistic aspect of that religion. Buddhist Rahula Vipola wrote,” the Buddha was trying to shed the true meaning of the Vedas. Buddha is a knower of the Veda (vedajña) or of the Vedanta (vedântajña) [(Sa.myutta, i. 168) and (Sutta Nipâta, 463)].” Hindus scholars have also accepted the Buddha and Buddhism as a fulfillment of Sanatana Dharma.

Swami Ranganathananada in his article Bhagavan Buddha and Our Heritage (published separately as booklet by Advaita Ashrama) explains that it is essential to understand Upanishads in order to fully understand the Buddha and his teachings. He regards the Buddha as continuing the Upanishad tradition of enquiry. Gautama assimilated whatever his teachers could give ; and asked for more. But, when that did not satisfy his aspirations Gautama resolved to leave his teachers and to seek the Truth on his own. Swami points out that Yoga and the Buddha both emphasize the Middle Path: “Yoga the discipline for the destruction of sorrow is for him who is moderate in eating, and recreation; moderate in work work and sleep and waking (BG-16.17).The additional charm of the Buddha’s teaching is that it arose out of his own experience. The Buddha’s second discourse at Saranath on the subject of Anatta is acceptable to Vedanta, entirely; and can be understood better in the light of the Upanishads. The attainment of Nirvana, the Swami explains, agrees essentially with the realization of the form-less Brahman of the Upanishads. The Buddha’s teaching is not only complete in itself but is also an essential part of the Indian Philosophy. The Buddha is the most wonderful flowering of the combined legacy. Swami Raganathananda concludes: “The self-transcending ethics of the Buddha united to the transcendent Self of Sri Sankara is the most stimulating essence of the Indian thouht”.

13. Hinduism and Buddhism influenced each other in many ways. The Buddhist notion of non-injury and compassion toward all living beings took deep roots in the Indian ethos, while Mahayana Buddhism took cue from the traditional Indian methods of devotional worship. Buddhism influenced the growth and development of Indian art and architecture and contributed richly to the practice of breathing and meditation in attaining mindfulness and higher states of consciousness. The Hindu Tantra influenced the origin and evolution of Vajrayana Buddhism that flowered in Tibet.   The systems of Buddhism and Hinduism are not either contradictory to one another or completely self contained.

14. We may say that in the first few centuries following the nirvana of the Buddha, Buddhism was an integral and significant part of that complex religious character of the Indian subcontinent, which the outsiders called as Hinduism. However over a period thereafter Buddhism crossed the boundaries of the Indian subcontinent and went on to play a much greater role in the whole of Asia. In the process, it developed a very complex sectarian, theological and geographical diversity and a tradition of its own – a unique blend of local customs and Buddhist faith- to become one of the most significant and influential religions of the world. Many people who are not familiar with the history of the Indian subcontinent fail to understand the deep connection that existed between Hinduism and Buddhism in the earlier days and the significant ways in which they enriched each other. 

F. Conclusion

15. The birth of Mahayana was not as a reaction to Hinduism .It was a concept that emerged out of churning of ideas within the Buddhist community. Perhaps it was the need of the time. The Mahayana did not deviate from the doctrines enunciated by the historical Buddha .The various forms that Mahayana assumed in different geographical and cultural contexts were a part of the dynamics of its growth.  The Mahayana in any country has to be viewed against the broad canvas of that region’s cultural and religious uniqueness. This is true in the Indian context too. Further, the systems of Buddhism and Hinduism are not either contradictory to one another or completely self contained.

16. What happened to Buddhism after eighth century and Muslim invasion is another story.

buddha-wallpapers

References:

Hinduism and Buddhism – A historical sketch By Sir Charles Eliot

Timeline, history-Three   Main Buddhist schools

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Buddhism

 

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Buddhism of Tibet

1. Early Days

1.1. India and Tibet (known to Tibetans themselves as Bod and to Indians as Bhota Desha) have had a long and a continuous cultural contact. The links between the old neighbors intensified when in 620 AD the emperor Sorang – sGam-Po (569 – 650 AD) sent his emissary to Kashmir to evolve a suitable script for the Tibetan language and to invite Buddhist scholars to Tibet. Interestingly this move was at the wish of two women one from Nepal and the other from China who were married to the monarch .The two queens were pious Buddhists .It does not however mean Buddhism was not known in Tibet until then. It appears that at least a hundred years earlier when LHa- THo- THo ruled the land a number of Buddhist texts were available in Tibet but not many could read the script. The initiative taken by the monarch not only brought in a gentler religion, a mellowed way of life but also a new “religious speech” (CHos – sKad) enriched by Sanskrit. Since then Tibet has regarded India as its sacred land and India in turn looks upon Tibet as its religious frontier. The mutual regard and respect has continued to this day.

2. Buddhism Enters

2.1. The introduction of Buddhist influence into Tibet was neither sudden nor violent. It was a gradual and a gentle process. This was a remarkable feat considering that the Tibetans and their religion at the time were “wild“ and that the Monarch did not resort to violence or repression to usher in Buddhism. The Tibetans were mostly nomadic in nature, Spartan in their ways of life and fiercely warlike. The religion native to Tibet called Bon –pronounced Pon – meaning “to mutter magic spells”, often described as shamanism, fetishism filled with rituals, spells, dances etc. had a strong influence on its followers. Yet the transformation brought about following the introduction of Buddhism is astounding. Today there is no gentler race than the Tibetans. No other people have preserved the high ideals of Buddhism as the Tibetans have even in the face of persistent trials, tribulations, displacements of immense proportions forced on them. How did this come about?

3. Synthesis

3.1. The religion that Indian monks planted in Tibet was not the one practiced in India at the time. In order to become acceptable to the populace of Tibet it was necessary that Buddhism evolve itself into a new form by letting in Bon practices and ideas while firmly retaining its basic Buddhist tenets. In the process, Buddhism took in materials and attitudes native to the soil, lent them a new sense of direction and grafted them with the Mahayana doctrines. It allowed many Bon attitudes, ideas, tribal gods, goddesses, and the associated rituals and instilled in them the spirit of Karuna. Thus While the form was traditional to the soil, the soul was Buddhist. Bon at the same time also adopted numerous Buddhist practices, attitudes and ideas.

3.2. It is important to remember that the Indian monks who brought in Buddhism were not missionaries in the usual sense of the term. They were not interested in conversions.

3.3. Some call the Tibetan religion as Vajrayana. It may perhaps be more appropriate to recognize it as Bon- CHos (Buddhism grafted on Bon). Because, what we have here is a harmonious synthesis of two religious practices and ideas rather than domination of one over the other. Tibet manifests a truly unique CHos (Dharma) with its own scheme of values.

4. Vajrayana

4.1. The form of Buddhism that took root in Tibet belongs to Vajrayana (the path of the thunderbolt) an offshoot of the Yogachara branch of the Mahayana. Vajrayana had its origin in South India, blossomed in the universities of Nalanda, Vikramashila and Odantapura in North India .It later took root in Tibet and Mongolia. Its characteristics are involvement in Tantric rituals, incantations (Mantras) and visualization of deities. At the same time the adaptable integration of the body (Kaya – Snkt,), speech (Vacha – Sanskt) and mind (manas – Sanskt.) is also a main plank of the Vajra (Diamond) path.

4.2. The Yoga – Tantra ideology (known to Tibetans as Grub –Thob) developed during the early part Christian era by a class of Indian seers called Siddhas became the driving force of the Vajrayana. Siddhas brought in the concept of Bhodhi –chitta.

4.3. As per the concept, Bhodhi-Chitta resides in all of us in its twin aspect: (1) as ordinary consciousness soiled by actions and agitated by thoughts, and (2) as a hidden pool of tranquility, unaffected, “ever washed bright”, beyond the phenomenal involvements. The former aspect is mind (Manas -Sanskrit) (Yid – Tibetan) and the latter is consciousness (Chitta – Sanskrit) (Sems – Tibetan). The object of the Tantra is to transform the former (characterized by Stress – Klesha) into the latter (experienced as Bliss – Sukha).

4.4. To illustrate the Bhodhi – Chitta, the mind is like a pool of water. The agitated water should become still before what lies beneath (consciousness) becomes visible. Beating or stirring the water does not help. The pool should be left undisturbed .The art of letting the mind alone (“let go”, “open hand”) to allow it to settle naturally into silence and tranquility is at the core of the disciplines advocated by the Siddhas. The instruction is “cast aside all clinging and essence will at once emerge”.

This concept gives rise to another one viz. Vipasyana meaning clear vision, which comes about because of stilling the constitutional mind.

4.5. These concepts entail a process that lays stress on utilizing the mind to reach a state of “no mind”, refinement and sharpening of the mind, purifying it and making it “like a cloud less sky”, “like a wave less occasion”,” like a bright lamp in a windless night” etc. In short, the object is to attain a clear, bright and a stable state. This process is also called as emptying the mind. The Tantra here not only suggests a path from a cruder form of thought and emotions to a higher level of functioning but also prescribes practices that transform and elevate the human being.

5. The Masters

5.1 From the 8th century onwards, the scholars at Nalanda began to play an active part in the propagation of Buddhist religion and culture in Tibet. It is likely Tibetan was taught at the institution. Chandragomin, at Nalanda, was the pioneer in the field.

Chandragomin (7th century CE) was a Buddhist scholar at Nalanda; and, he always dressed in the white robes of the Yogic tradition. It is said; Chandragomin challenged Chandrakirti (c.600 – c.650) another Buddhist scholar at Nalanda and a commentator on the works of Nagarjuna (c.150–c. 250 CE) to a debate held in Nalanda Mahavihara. Chandrakirti would immediately reply to any statements made by Chandragomin. But, Chandragomin, on the other hand, would take his time to answer – sometimes he would wait until the next day. His answers, nevertheless, were very precise and clear. The debate, it appears, lasted for many years.

Chandragomin’s work on Sanskrit grammar became popular in Tibet. And, scores of his works were translated into Tibetan; many scholars were in fact engaged in translation work.

5.2. The credit for evolving a wonderful synthesis of the two religious practices goes to the Tibetan monks and their Indian Gurus the prominent among whom, in the early stages, were Padmasambhava and Santarakshita.

Santarakshita, another Nalanda monk and scholar, was invited to Tibet by its king Khri-sron-deu-tsan in 74 (J A.D. for the purpose of preaching Buddhism. He was given a royal reception and the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet was built under his instructions. He became its chief abbot and vigorously helped the spread of Buddhism till his death in 762 A.D.

He received very valuable cooperation in this work from Padmasambhava, a Kashmirian monk educated at Nalanda ‘. Intellectual and literary activity of Nalanda must have continued in subsequent centuries also, for several manuscripts have been, preserved to this time, which were copied at Nalanda during the 10th, 11th  and 12th centuries A.D.-

Padmasambhava built the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet (bSam Yas) around 749 AD modeled on the Odantapura monastery while combining three styles of India, Tibet and China. He persuaded the great scholar Santharakshita of Nalanda to preside over the monastery.

Both were men of great learning. While Padmasambhava had his roots in Tantra, Santarakshita was a quiet ascetic in the traditional mold. The Padmasambhava – Santarakshita team was a curious combination of dissimilar capabilities .One complimented the other. One would argue thunder and coerce while the other could explain, expound, teach and convince. One had a mass appeal; the other had the quiet regard of the elite. One emphasized magic, rituals and success; the other highlighted the value of virtues, contemplation and wisdom. Padmasambhava stood for powerful action; Santarakshita symbolized gentle being. The two great men together molded the attitudes and approach of later day Tibetans. If the Tibetans have successfully accommodated the thunderbolt (Vajra) with the abiding peace of vacuity (Shunya) then a large share of the credit must go to these Masters each working in his own way for the betterment of humanity.

5.3. If the Padmasambhava – Santarakshita team introduced the Buddhist excellence the other team of Dipankara and Brom firmly established Buddhist influence in Tibet Dipankara, a prince from Bengal earlier in his life, presided over the VikramsilaUniversity. He was a great Mahayana scholar in the mould of Santharakshita. He was 60 when he arrived in Tibet where he lived for 13 years until his death in 1054 AD. He was fortunate in securing a very capable and devoted Tibetan disciple in Brom. The two together strived to clean up the cobwebs since settled in the Tibetan Buddhism and to restore the traditional values and virtues.

5.4. Another revered name in the annals of Tibetan Buddhism is TSong –Kha – Pa (1357 – 1419 AD), a scholar of great renown and author of the celebrated Lam – Rin CHen Mo. He is worshipped even today as a living presence, next only to Buddha. The Chinese emperor honored TSong –Kha – Pa’s nephew as a Bhodhi Sattva. Later in 1650, the Mongolian emperor conferred the all-powerful status of Dalai Lama on a descendent of TSong –Kha – Pa. Since then the successive abbots have been the religious and secular heads of Tibet.

TSong –Kha – Pa brought large scale and enduring reforms in the Buddhist monastic organizations in Tibet. The achievements of TSong –Kha _Pa and his contribution to Tibetan Buddhism in particular and to Dharma in general are too numerous to recount here.

6. India’s Debt to Tibet


6.1. India owes a debt of deep gratitude to Tibet for preserving Yoga-Tantra tradition and keeping it alive even though it has become extinct in the land of its origin.

6.2. Further, because of the large-scale destruction of Buddhist and Hindu texts stored in Nalanda when Muslim forces attacked it during the middle periods, many ancient texts are no longer available in India. The only credible source for such ancient texts is the body of Tibetan translations carried out centuries earlier by Tibetan monks.

6.3. More importantly, the extraordinary sprit of tolerance, non-violence and resilience displayed by the large population of ordinary men and women displaced from their homeland is a true tribute to Buddha and his ideals.

References:
1. Tibetan Tantric Traditions
– Prof. S K Ramachandra Rao
2. The Buddhist Tantras
– Alex Wayman

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Buddhism

 

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Jivaka, the physician

Jivaka, the Buddha_s physician. British Library

Jivaka, the Buddha’s physician. British Library

There is a natural association between Buddhism and medicine. Buddhist doctrine recognizes the phenomenon of suffering, unravels its causes, understands the state of elimination of suffering and prescribes the right method for elimination of suffering seen and heard.

The Pali texts describe the Buddha as the physician (bhishak) and as the surgeon (sallakatta).Ashvagosha the poet (80-150 BCE) called Buddha Maha –Bhishak (the great physician). At a later stage in Buddhism, the Buddha worship in the Bhaishajya Guru (The Guru of all physicians) form came into practice.

Interestingly, the life of one of the celebrated physicians and surgeons of the ancient India was closely associated with that of the Buddha. Jivaka came to the Buddha as a young man in the prime of his youth and stayed faithful to the Buddha until the later years of the Master, as his disciple, friend and as his physician.

He gained a great reputation as a surgeon who successfully conducted operations like craniotomy ( surgical incision into the skull) and laparotomy (surgical incision into the abdominal wall). He was known for curing jaundice, fistula and other ailments. Jivaka’s fame as a healer and a child specialist was widely known and tales about his life and medical feats are in almost all versions of Buddhist scriptures.

The Jivaka’s story is elaborated in four versions -the Pali, the Sanskrit, the Chinese and the Tibetan. We will follow the Pali version because some important discourses addressed to Jivaka are in that version.

The Buddha-Jivaka story is a very human story. Their relationship was not cast in the usual mould that one comes across in religious texts. In a way, it de-mystifies the Buddha imagery. The Buddha you meet here is not the ethereal philosopher with his head in the clouds nor is he The God himself. You will find, he not always resembled the serene, ever smiling young Apollo – Greco Roman God like images that sit on our coffee tables or that decorate our bookcases.

The Buddha, you meet here, is a real person, a wise, compassionate, mellow, independent and a mature person who walked and lived on this land. He did encounter many problems, but more importantly, he got over them with reason and dignity. He suffered from injuries, illness, constipation, diarroehea and other problems related to old age. Whenever he needed help, he did ask for help. But, you never see him losing his composure. Here you see him put forth some unusual but rational views on the day-to-day concerns of the monks and the lay. That brings us closer to the Buddha.

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Once when Prince Abhaya son of Bimbisara the king of Rajagriha, was riding through the city, he noticed a flock of crows circling and cawing round a winnowing basket, thrown on a rubbish heap. As he got closer to the basket, he saw, to his amazement, a lovely looking baby boy wrapped in clothes placed in the basket. He took the baby home and decided to raise him as his son. The baby was given the name Jivaka, the live one, since he survived his abandonment on the rubbish heap. Because the prince raised him, he also acquired the pet name Kumarabhacca (nourished by prince).

Jivaka enjoyed a happy princely childhood. As his birth-situation later dawned on him, Jivaka reasoned that it was unfair and dishonorable to be dependent on the generosity of the prince, forever. He determined to earn his livelihood by pursuing a career, independently. He aspired to be a physician. He then left home, without informing the prince, and traveled all the way to Taxasila, in the distant West; to study medicine under the well-known teacher Disapamok Achariya. There, he studied medicine diligently for seven years.

Towards the end of his seven-year study, he took a practical examination that tested his medical skills and his knowledge of medical herbs. He passed the test with merit. With a little financial help and blessings of his mentor, Jivaka set out into the world in search of a carrier, fame and fortune.

On his way back home to Rajagriha, he stopped at Saketha where he came to know that the wife of the richest merchant (setthi) in the town was suffering from a chronic head ache for the past seven years and the local physicians failed to find a cure for her ailment.

Jivaka succeed in convincing the rich lady that though young as he was, he would surely rid her of the ailment. He procured some herbs and cooked them in pure ghee obtained from the lady’s household. He made the patient lie on her back on a couch and injected the medicine, he prepared, through her nose. When the injected medicine was flowing out of her mouth, the patient gestured to her servant to mop up that fluid (ghee/medicine) with a piece of cotton and store it a vessel. The bemused physician Jivaka wondered, “That ghee ought to be thrown away, but this stingy woman ordered it to be taken with cotton. I do not know whether I will get my fee. This thrift is rather too much”.

After she recovered, the Settani watching the puzzled expression on Jivaka’s face smiled and explained, “That is a good ghee mixed with medicine and can be used for rubbing on sore feet. Don’t be alarmed. I am not so stingy . I will pay you your fee.”

She was highly pleased with the miracle cure and paid the young physician four thousand kappanas (silver coins). Her son added an equal amount to his purse.

On his return to Rajagriha, flushed with success, Jivaka set up his own establishment. He had a great start to his medical careeer. He performed the operation of trepanning (to pierce with a surgical crown saw) on a setthi of Rājagaha ; and, followed it up with an operation on the son of the setthi of Varanasi who suffered from chronic intestinal trouble due to its misplacement.

A son of a merchant while playing at somersaults suffered a twist in the bowels (an entanglement of his intestines). He could not digest properly whatever he ate and drank; and looked discolored with the veins standing out upon his skin. Jivaka cut the skin of the stomach, drew out the twisted bowel, and sewed the skin of the stomach. On applying an ointment given by Jivaka, the boy in due course became well.

Jivaka was also a well-known pediatrician. His name Kaumarabhtya (in Sanskrit) was some times interpreted to mean ‘expert in children’s diseases’. A part of the Bower MSS discovered during 1880 in Kuchar of Chinese Turkistan quotes Jivaka’s formulae as the “Navan_taka” (meaning ‘butter’).

This medical compilation of the 4th century AD attributes two formulae dealing with children’s disease to Jivaka, saying ‘Iti hovaca Jivakah” i.e. thus spoke Jivaka.

One formula is: Bhargi, long pepper, Paha, payasya, together with honey, may be used against emeses ( act of vomiting ) due to deranged phlegm. Some of the cures attributed to Jivaka may be exaggerations; but, they indicate the importance attached to accurate observation and deduction in ancient times.

(http://www.vigyanprasar.gov.in/dream/may2000/article1.htm)

[His teachings traveled to Thailand along with Buddhism, around the 2nd and 3rd century BC. Learners and practitioners of the traditional Thai massage art respect his methods, even today.

http://www.thaimassagebrighton.com/thai_tradition.html]

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As his fame spread, the king’s men invited Jivaka to cure the king Bimbisara of his fistula. The successful physician was paid a huge fee; and, was appointed as the physician to the king.

***

Jivaka, the successful young physician, enjoying fame and fortune went to meet his benefactor and adopted father Prince Abhaya and laid at his feet all the wealth he earned. Jivaka thanked the Prince for his love, compassion and caring.

Prince Abhaya appreciated the gesture and said that the gifts were undoubtedly very valuable indeed; but it was not the gift he was waiting for, he said. ”You verily are my true gift” he exclaimed.

Prince Abhaya explained that during Jivaka’s absence he enquired into the circumstances of his birth. His mother, Salawathi, was the most sought-after courtesan of the kings and nobility. Wanting to retain her freedom, she discarded her baby, who , she feared , might burden her. Prince Abhaya had unknowingly adopted his own child.

Prince Abhaya built a palace to serve as his son Jivaka’s residence ;and, provided him with riches and many servants

*****

The turning point in Jivaka’s life came when Ananda came to fetch him to treat the Buddha who suffered from “blocked intestines” (constipation?). When Jivaka saw the condition of the patient, it occurred to him he might not survive a strong purgative. He then had fat rubbed into the Buddha’s body; and, gave him a handful of lotuses to inhale the essence emanating from the flowers.

Jīvaka was away when the mild purgative was later administered to the patient, and he suddenly remembered that he had omitted to ask him to bathe in warm water to complete the cure process. The Buddha, it is said, read his thoughts and bathed as required.( Vin.i.279f; DhA. ii.164f).

On another occasion when the Buddha’s was injured in his foot by a splinter from a rock hurled by Devadutta (Buddha’s cousin), the Buddha had to be carried from Maddakucchi (a park near Rajagriha) to Jīvaka’s Ambavana residence. There, Jīvaka applied an astringent, and having bandaged the wound, left the city expecting to return in time to remove it.

However, by the time he did return, the city gates were shut. He was greatly worried because if the bandage remained on all night the Buddha would suffer intense pain. The Buddha, it is said, read his thoughts and removed the bandage. (J.v.333.).

****

There is a mention of a meal hosted by Jīvaka, wherein the Buddha refused to be served until one Cūlapanthaka (denied entry by the host Jivaka) was served food. Cula_panthaka was the son of a rich merchant’s daughter who eloped with her slave. She, in dire circumstances, gave birth to a baby boy on the roadside. That baby was promptly named Panthaka, who later turned out to be a dullard. He was however very fond of listening to Buddha; and, spent most of his time in the Vihara, though he was driven out each time. He later gained knowledge ; and, became an Arhant, by the grace of the Buddha’s compassion.

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 Jivaka became an ardent admirer and disciple of the Buddha. He tried to meet the Buddha at least two times a day. Since the Veluvana, where the Buddha stayed at that time, was far away, he built a monastery with all its adjuncts in his own Ambavana in Rājagaha and dedicated it to the Buddha and his monks (DA.i.133; MA.ii.590).

With foresight, love and compassion Jivaka took care of the physical health of the Buddha and His Sangha. The Buddha at the suggestion of Jivaka introduced a number of measures to regulate the day-to-day activities of the monks. Those included the following:

-. When Jīvaka went to Vesali (capital of Licchavi) on business, he noticed the monks there had gone pale and were unhealthy looking (Vin.ii.119). At Jīvaka’s request, the Buddha instructed the monks to exercise regularly.

-. As an extension of this routine the Buddha instructed the monks to sweep the compound of the monastery and attend to other duties to exercise their bodies, to ensure good health and to keep the premises clean.

-. Those monks who were ill were advised to use medicines and whenever needed to apply ointment to their sore feet.

-. The monks were in the habit of walking bare foot and many of them sustained injuries and suffered from sore feet. The Buddha advised them to wear foot coverings.

-. The Buddha advised the monks to use modest clothing and not wander about naked.  He also asked them not to indulge in excessive austerities.

-. A discipline was introduced which required the monks to take care of each other. The famous advice of the Buddha to the monks, in this context, was,

“Ye, O Bhikkhus, have no mother and father to wait upon you. If you wait not one upon the other, who is there, indeed, who will wait upon you? Whosoever, O Bhikkhus, would wait upon me, he should wait upon the sick.”

-. With the introduction of better health care measures in the Sangha , more and more lay persons entered the Order. Many people, afflicted with disease and unable to pay for treatment, joined the Order in order to avail free medical facilities.

This influx naturally rendered Jivaka’s task more difficult. He was unable to cope with the increased workload. Further, he thought, the Order was misused. At his suggestion, the Buddha laid down a rule that men afflicted with certain diseases be refused entry into the Order. The diseases prevalent in Maghada of those times included: leprosy, boils, dry leprosy, consumption, and fits (Vin.i.71ff).

Later cripples and homosexual were also kept out of the order. (Vinaya, Vol. 4, pp. 141-142.). 

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Once Jivaka offered to the Buddha, an exquisite shawl earlier presented to him (Jivaka) by a king. The Buddha accepted the celestial shawl, as requested by Jivaka.

The Buddha, however, felt that keeping such a valuable shawl in the monastery would attract thieves and endanger His monks. He asked Ananda to cut the shawl into strips and sew it again, so that it would be of little value to thieves. In addition, it would inculcate in the monks a sense of non- attachment to objects. This was how the custom of wearing patched garments came into practice in the Sangha.

The Blessed One accepted the suit,
and after having delivered a religious discourse,
he addressed the bhikkhus thus:

“Henceforth ye shall be at liberty to wear either cast-off rags or lay robes.
Whether ye are pleased with the one or with the other, I will approve of it.”

When the people at Rajagraha heard :“The Blessed One has allowed the bhikkhus to wear lay robes” .

Jivaka gained fame as the first layman to offer  robes to the monks. Thereafter, others who were willing to bestow gifts became glad.  The term kathina denotes a cotton cloth offered by lay people to bhikkhus (monks) annually, after the end of the vassa rainy retreat, for the purpose of making robes. And in that one day, many thousands of robes were presented at Rajagaha to the bhikkhus. Then , offering robes to the monks and nuns in the Sangha came to be regarded as one of the meritorious deeds .

 The Buddha is sitting at the centre, surrounded by monks and lay people

***

Education

Another very interesting feature of the Vinaya Pitaka, as elaborated in its Chapters such as the Mahavagga, Chullavagga, Pachittiya etc., is the importance accorded to ones education; the system of education recommended for the young student-monks in the Sangha; the teaching methods; and, the relationship that should ideally exist between the teacher (Upajjhaya- Snkt. Upadhyaya) and the disciple (Antevasi – the resident student).

The Buddha insisted that his teaching should be spread in the language that is commonly spoken by the ordinary people of the towns and villages; and, not in Sanskrit , the language of the scholars. He was keen that the education –spiritual, ritual or otherwise- should be open to all classes of the Society.

At the outset; the Buddha guides the aspirant on the path that leads to right-understanding; and, asks the student to work it out by himself, following a free and fair reasoning. As regards the attitude or the approach that the students should ideally adopt; the Buddha while answering a question asked by Kalamas of Kesaputta, counselled the young learners thus (the kalama Sutta appearing in Aguttara Nikaya (III.653) :

Come, O Kālāmas, Do not accept anything thinking that thus have we heard it from a long time (anussava). Do not accept anything thinking that it has thus been handed down through many generations (paramparā). Do not accept anything on account of rumours (itikirā). Do not accept anything just because it accords with your scriptures (piaka-sampadāna). Do not accept anything by mere surmise (takka-hetu); or upon an axiom (naya-hetu). Do not accept anything by mere inference (ākāra-parivitakka). Do not accept anything by merely upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over (diṭṭhi-nijjhān-akkh-antiyā). Do not accept anything by coming under another’s seems ability (bhabba-rūpatāya). Do not accept anything merely because the monk-teacher says so (samao no garū). Do not accept anything thinking that the ascetic is respected by us (and therefore it is right to accept his word.)

“Kalamas, when you know for yourselves —these things are immoral, these things are blameworthy, these things are censured by the wise, these things when performed and undertaken, conduce to ruin and sorrow – then indeed you do have to  reject them.

“But Kalamas, when you know for yourselves – these things are good; these things are blameless, these things are praised by the wise; these things when undertaken and observed, lead to well-being and happiness- enter upon and abide in them.’

*

Vinaya Pitaka describes the qualities (Guna) of a good student as:

(1) having a keen desire to learn;

(2) accomplish the task assigned by the teacher;

(3) watch ones conduct in word, deed and mind; repent ones mistakes, and ensure such mistakes do not occur again;

(4) practice concentration and meditation; and,

(5) honor and respect your teacher, develop a loving attitude towards her/him.

The Vinaya Pitaka asks the student to :

(1) properly receive the knowledge that is imparted  (Suggahitani );

(2) be attentive while listening (Samansiktani);

(3)  absorb and retain what is taught (Supdharitani ); and,

(4)  render what he/she has learnt in a clear voice , using a simple land meaningful words that are easily understood by the listeners (Kalyaniyasi).

The Vinaya Pitaka encourages the student to rationally and logically analyse the words of the teacher; to politely ask pertinent questions; to clear his doubts; and, to seek the answers himself.

As regards the responsibilities of the Pupils; each was charged with the task and responsibility of maintaining the monastery, in which they all live and study, cleanly and properly. Apart from cleaning and putting things in place, the resident-students were expected to look after their Master, with love and devotion.

Normally, a student-monk would be attached to a teacher till the end of the study-course. But, a student could go to another teacher, in case the present teacher:

(1) goes on a long pilgrimage or tour;

(2) is transferred to another monastery;

(3) changes his philosophy and ideology;

(4) voluntarily allows the student to seek instructions from another teacher;

(4) is unwell or sick; or

(5) dies.

An errant student runs the risk of being expelled from the monastery, in case he/she is held guilty of gross indiscipline, despite the repeated counselling.

*

As regards the desired virtues (Guna) of a worthy teacher (Upadhyaya) , the Chullavagga mentions that he/she should primarily be well disciplined; gain control of his/her senses ; set an example by his/her conduct; and , practice  in good-faith what he/she teaches. The teacher should ensure that his/her teachings are proper; and, unerringly guide the learner along the virtuous path.

The other merits of a good teacher (Sadguru) were said to be that he/she is: well educated, respected and posses a high moral conduct; has the necessary skill, aptitude and the tolerance to teach; spreads the knowledge without fear, favour or prejudice; well intentioned, having the well-being of the student; and, above all, should be well versed in the tenets and the disciplines enumerated in the Vinaya Pitaka (Vinayadhar), and, brings them into practices.

*

In regard to the teacher-student relationship, the Chullavagga desires that an ‘Upajjhaya’ should ever bear in his heart and mind a fatherly attitude towards his pupils.

And, in a similar manner, the pupils should respect and regard the teacher as they would to their own father; and, take care of their teacher with love and devotion.

And, the teacher, on his part, should look after and take care of his pupils with diligence. At the time of pupil’s illness, teacher has to look after him; arrange for proper medication; and ,nurse him back to good health.

The Buddha, in that regard, set an example to all other teachers.

Recalling the Buddha’s attitude, Bhadant Upali, a disciple of the Buddha, narrated that once, while in Sravasti, the Buddha came upon an ailing monk in a very sick and dirty condition. The Buddha at once asked his cousin and close disciple Ananda, to fetch a bowl of fresh water and clean the ‘Chivara’ (monastic robe) of the sick and old monk. The Buddha, thereupon, himself washed the body of that monk and changed his attire. Thus, by attending to the sick monk himself, the Master set a shining example to others about the responsibilities that a teacher must bear towards his pupils and followers.

Buddha sick monk

 The above instance illustrates the process in which the rules governing the conduct of the monks evolved in the early Buddhism. This was in sharp contrast to the practices in a few other religions where the Rule was initially pronounced or written down and later imposed on the followers. The Buddhist practices, especially those concerning the conduct of the monks, emerged out of the incidents in the Buddha’s life or out of his discourses. It was a gradual process; and a Rule developed in response to a challenge or to fulfill the needs of the growing Order.

This tradition, incidentally, helped the Buddhist teaching methods in explaining the significance or the concept behind a certain conduct or a practice recommended for the monks. It helped the learner to appreciate how the rule fitted into a coherent whole.

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Dr. Ananat Sadashiv Altekar (1898-1960) – who was the Professor and Head of the Department of Ancient Indian History and Culture at Banaras Hindu University –  (in his Education in Ancient India, 1934)  talks about  Buddhism and the system of ancient Indian education. The following is an extract:

Buddhism and ancient Indian educationChapter X – Section A- pages 225 to 233

Ordination Ceremony:

The wise injunction of the Buddha, that every novice should be properly trained in the discipline and doctrine of the religion, was primarily responsible for the educational developments in and activities of Buddhist monasteries. Two ceremonies were laid down for those who desired to enter the Order, the Pabbajja and the Upwampada.

The Pabbajja marked the beginning of the noviciate period and could be given when a person was less than eight years old. The permission of the guardian was necessary.

The Upammpada was given after the end of the noviciate period, and the recipient had to be not less than twenty years old.

(If he was a debtor, an invalid or a government servant, he was refused admission.)

 The ordination could take place only with the consent of the whole Chapter. There were no caste restrictions for admission.

The novice had to affirm his faith in the Buddha, his Dharma and the Sangha (the Order); and select a learned person as his preceptor. He was to follow strictly the rules and discipline of the Order.

Like the Hindu Brahmachari (student), he was expected to beg his daily food; but he was also permitted to accept invitations for meals from laymen. He was to do all manual and menial work connected with the monastic life, e. g. cleansing its floor and utensils, bringing water, supervising its stores, etc.

(If he was guilty of any serious breach of discipline, he could be expelled by a meeting of the chapter.)

The Relation between the Novice and his Teacher

The Relations between the Novice and his Teacher were filial in character; they were united together by mutual reverence, confidence and affection. Like the Hindu Brahmacharin, the Buddhist novice was to help his teacher by doing a variety of manual work for him ; he was to carry his seat and robes, supply him water and tooth stick, cleanse his begging bowl and utensils and accompany him as an attendant when he proceeded to the town or village for begging or preaching.

The teacher was to teach the student the rules of etiquette and discipline, draw his and abstinence from pleasures and help him in his intellectual and spiritual progress by suitable discourses and lessons* in the morning and afternoon. He was also to help him in getting food and robes, and even to nurse him if he was sick.

 The teacher ‘s own life was to be exemplary ; and, the novice was permitted to act as a check on him if he was wavering in his faith or about to commit a breach of monastic discipline. The needs ol the teacher were to be the minimum; the famous teachers at Nalanda used to receive an allowance only three times larger than the amount given to an ordinary student.

This would give a very clear idea as to how Buddhist teachers led a very simple life and cost next to nothing to society. They were lifelong students of their different subjects; for marriage did not intervene to put an end to or an obstacle in their studies.

The Education of the Laity

 As observed already, in the beginning Buddhist education was purely monastic and was intended only for those who entered, or intended to enter, the Order. This was but natural.

 Buddhism held that the worldly life was full of sorrow and that the salvation could be possible only by renouncing it. It could therefore naturally evince no interest in the education of those who intended to follow secular life and pursuits. In the course of time however it was realised that it was necessary to win public sympathy and support for the spread of the gospel ; this could be more successfully done if the Buddhist monk could help the cause of education .as was done by his theological opponent, the Brahman priest.

 It was also realised that the best way to spread the gospel was to undertake the education of the rising generation. This was  calculated to enable the Order to mould and influence the minds of the younger section of the society, when they were very pliable. There was thus a better chance of both recruiting proper types of persons for the Order and of getting a larger number of lay sympathisers, if the educational effort was not confined to novices but was also extended to the whole community.

Buddhism therefore threw itself heart and soul into the cause of the general education of the whole community from about the beginning of the Christian era. It may be pointed out that lay students were admitted in ‘external’ monastic schools of Christianity, ‘internal’ schools being reserved for those who intended to join the order. Jesuits also used to admit lay pupils, when space permitted the step.

Female Education

Buddhist nunneries went out of vogue from about the 4th century A. D. ; so at  the time when Buddhist monasteries had developed into colleges of international reputation, women were not receiving any advantages of the education imparted in them. Their marriages were at that time taking place very early.

In the early history of Buddhism however, the permission given to women to enter the Order gave a fairly good impetus to the cause of female education, especially in aristocratic and commercial sections of society. A large number of ladies from these circles joined the Order and became life-long students of religion and philosophy. Their example must have given an indirect encouragement to the spread of education among lay women as well

Conclusion:

 It will thus be seen that Buddhism may well be proud of its contribution to the cause of  education in ancient In dial Its colleges threw their doors open to all, irrespective of  any considerations of  caste or country: The rise ff organised public educational institutions may be justly attributed To influence.

 It raised the international status of India by the efficiency of its higher education, which attracted students from distant countries like Korea, China, Tibet and Java.  The cultural sympathy which the countries in Eastern Asia feel for India even today is entirely due to the work of the famous Buddhist colleges of ancient India. If some of the important lost texts can be reconstructed with the help of their Chinese translations, the credit must be given to Buddhist colleges, which enabled Chinese students to  get their copies.

Buddhist education also helped the development of Hindu logic and philosophy by initiating and encouraging comparative study. In the period of its early history, it championed the cause of education through the mother tongue; later on however it could not resist the charm and influence of Sanskrit and began to impart education through that language.

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Vegetarianism in Buddhism :

Once while he visited the Buddha who was then staying in his Mango grove, Jīvaka asked, if it was true that animals were slain expressly for the Buddha’s use. The Buddha replied— he forbids the eating of meat only when there is evidence of one’s eyes or ears as grounds for suspicion that the animal was slain for one’s express use. Anyone who slays an animal for the use of a monk and gives it to him commits a great evil”. Jīvaka was pleased with the reply and declared himself a follower of the Buddha. (Jīvaka Sutta – M.i.368f.)

 Jivaka sutta :

This is the much-discussed Jivaka Sutta that puts forth the Buddhist views on meat eating and vegetarianism. The sutra and the discussions that follow are elaborate. Some of that can be explored by following the links at the bottom of this paragraph.

In summary:

– a monk or nun should accept, without any discrimination, whatever food is offered in alms , offered with good will; this could include meat. However, the Buddha declared the meat trade as wrong livelihood. (Vanijja Sutta, AN 5:177)

Taking life, beating, cutting, binding, stealing, lying, fraud, deceit, pretence at knowledge, adultery; this is un-cleanliness and not the eating of meat.

– When men are rough and harsh, backbiting, treacherous, without compassion, haughty, ungenerous and do not give anything to anybody; this is un-cleanliness and not the eating of meat.

– Anger, pride, obstinacy, antagonism, hypocrisy, envy, ostentation, pride of opinion, interacting with the unrighteous; this is un-cleanliness and not the eating of meat.

– When men are of bad morals, refuse to pay their debts, are slanderers, deceitful in their dealings, pretenders, when the vilest of men commit foul deeds; this is un-cleanliness and not the eating of meat.

– When men attack living beings because of either greed or hostility and are always bent upon evil, they go to darkness after death and fall headlong into hell; this is un-cleanliness and not the eating of meat.

-. Abstaining from fish and meat, nakedness, shaving of the head, matted hair, smearing ashes, wearing rough deerskins, attending the sacrificial fire; none of the various penances in the world performed for unhealthy ends, neither incantations, oblations, sacrifices nor seasonal observances, purify a person who has not overcome his doubts.

-. He who lives with his senses guarded, conquered, and is established in the Dhamma delights in uprightness and gentleness; who has gone beyond attachments and has overcome all sorrows; that wise man does not cling to what is seen and heard.(Amagandha Sutta)

 – meat should not be eaten under three circumstances: when it is seen or heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk. (When a living being is purposely slaughtered for the eater).

 – meat can be eaten in three circumstances: when it is not seen, heard, or suspected (when a living being is not purposely slaughtered for the eater). (Jivaka Sutta, MN 55)

He permitted His monks to be vegetarians if they so wished; He did not prescribe that as a rule (to avoid hardship to His monks).

The Buddha declared that kamma is intention. One should not therefore condemn a person merely because he is eating meat to sustain himself. This sets him apart from one who eats meat out of greed for meat or for enjoyment in killing.

None should discourage those who opt not to eat meat. A balanced diet could be achieved without meat, if one so desires. Many Buddhists have opted to become vegetarians because it helps them to practice “loving-kindness”.

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The Buddha’s last message to his disciples was:

Behold now, Bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness”

“My years are now full ripe; the life span left is short.
Departing, I go hence from you, relying on myself alone.
Be earnest, then, O bhikkhus, be mindful and of
virtue pure!

With firm resolve, guard your own mind,
Whoso untiringly pursues the Dhamma and the Discipline
Shall go beyond the round of births and make an end of suffering
.”

(DN 16 Maha-parinibbana Sutta)

Jivaka’s story is fascinating by itself; in addition, it provides an insight into evolution of values and attitudes in the early Sangha.

 Buddha myroblalan

Sources and References

http://www.mahindarama.com/e-tipitaka/Majjhima-Nikaya/mn-55.htm

http://aimwell.org/assets/Amagandha%20Sutta.pdf (Amagandha Sutta)

http://web.ukonline.co.uk/buddhism/jivaka.htm

http://www.dhammaweb.net/Tipitaka/read.php?id=89

http://www.savage-comedy.com/_Vegetarianism_in_Buddhism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism_in_Buddhism

http://www.dharmaweb.org/index.php/Vegetarianism_by_Venerable_K._Sri_Dhammananda

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Transformations in Indian History

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Aside

Pubbarama (purva_rama) was a Buddhist monastery situated in the neighborhood of Savasthi, to the Northeast of Jeta_vana, which was one of the Buddha’s viharas The Buddha spent nine rainy seasons in Pubbarama. During his stay there, the Buddha dispensed many discourses, guided and helped a large number of persons. Pubbarama monastery, therefore, is often mentioned in the Buddhist texts. How the Pubbarama monastery came into being, is a very interesting story. It is narrated in the Dhamma_pada Commentary (Vol. I, 384-420).

***

Visakha, bright and beautiful, was the daughter of Dhananjaya and Sumanadevi who resided in the city of Kosala. Dhanajaya was a wealthy merchant and lived a comfortable life. Visakha grew up playing around the Vihara of the Buddha, in Kosala.She was an active, inquisitive and a lively child; she was always questioning about the things around her and about Dhamma. The Buddha was fond of the little girl.

Meanwhile in the city of Savasti a rich merchant, Migara was looking for a suitable bride for his son Punnavaddhana. The boy Punnavaddhana, however, was averse to marriage .It was not easy to convince him either. After much persuasion, he agreed to the marriage but stipulated some tough conditions. He insisted the bride should be “an exquisite beauty who possessed the five maidenly attributes: beauty of hair, teeth, skin, youth and form. Her hair had to be glossy and thick, reaching down to her ankles. Her teeth had to be white and even like a row of pearls. Her skin had to be of golden hue, soft and flawless. She had to be in the peak of youth, about sixteen. She had to have a beautiful, feminine figure, not too fat and not too thin”.

Migara sent a couple of well-fed Brahmins to scout for a girl who answered the specifications laid down by his son They roamed the Magadha and Kosala countries in search of a suitable girl who would make Punnavaddhana happy. They, however, could not spot the precious one. Having given up their search, and when they were loitering in Kosala, cooking up a ruse to appease the” angry-old- bull “- Migara, they were caught in an unexpected storm. While they were running for a shelter, they noticed, to their amazement, a young and a beautiful girl walking calmly and gracefully through the storm to the nearby shelter, just as her friends ran in all directions. The Brahmins , quite impressed by the pretty girl’s composure went up to her and questioned why she did not run to the shelter, as her friends did, to avoid getting wet. The fair maiden replied in her unhurried and measured voice, “It is not appropriate for a maiden in her fine clothes to run, just as it is not appropriate for a king in royal attire, a royal elephant dressed for the parade, or a serene monk in robes, to run.” Pleased with her reply, her composure and her exquisite beauty, the Brahmins went back and reported to Migara about their discovery of the most suitable bride for Punnavaddhana.

Thereafter Visakha and Punnavardhana were married; and lived happily in Migara’s house at Savasthi. Migara though wealthy was not a generous person. One afternoon, while Migara was taking his lunch in a golden bowl, a Buddhist monk came to his door seeking alms. Migara noticed the monk but ignored him and continued with his lunch. Visakha who was watching the proceedings went up to the monk and requested him to leave by saying, “Pass on, Venerable Sir, my father-in-law eats stale food.”

Migara who overheard the remark was furious and demanded an explanation. Visakha, in her usual calm and measured voice, explained that he was eating the benefits of his past good deeds and he did nothing to ensure his continued prosperity. She told him, “you are eating stale fare”.

Migara duly chastened, changed his ways, invited the Buddha and his retinue of monks for their meal and arranged for rich food.

After that event, Visakha continued her acts of generosity to the Buddhist monks and to the Sangha. One day, while on a visit to Jetavana, the monastery in which the Buddha resided, she forgot to bring back home her priceless jeweled headdress and other jewels. She did not notice their absence for a couple of days and later gave them up as lost.

Then one fine morning a couple of clean shaven Buddhist monks presented themselves at her door steps carrying a basketful of jewels and enquired whether they belonged to her. She recognized the jewels as hers and was happy to see them. She, however, refused to take them back, remarking it was not proper to take back an item left in the monastery. She asked the monks to retain the jewels with them. The monks, bemused, said the jewels were of no value to them and walked back to the monetary, empty handed, singing songs praising virtues of renunciation.

Thereafter, Visakha offered the jewels for sale, with the intention of donating the sale proceeds to the Sangha or using it for building a new monastery. She did not succeed in finding a buyer, as none could afford the exquisite jeweled headdress (it was her wedding gift from her parents and reached all the way down her long hair to her ankles.)

Visakha then decided to buy it herself. She thereafter went on to build a new monastery to house to the Buddha and His retinue of monks and nuns. It was a magnificent two-storied structure built of wood and stone. Besides the prayer and conference halls, it had a number of rooms. That monastery came to be known as pubbarama (Purva_rama) because it was facing to the East.

On the day, Visakha dedicated the monastery to the Buddha she was overjoyed. She sang and danced with immense joy. She ran like child, with her children around the monastery, many times. Her joy was infectious; even the Buddha was touched.

The ex-miser Migara too was touched. He requested his daughter-in-law to accept him as her son. He called her Migara_ mata (Mother of Migara).From that day the Pubbarama monastery also came to be known as Migara_matu_pasada (the mansion of Migara’s mother). That was how the Pubbarama came into being.

***

Soon after its completion, Visakha took charge of the nun’s section of the Pubbarama. One evening, while on her rounds, she was horrified to see the nuns’ fully drunk, dancing and singing crazy songs. When she asked the nuns to stop what they were doing, they did not listen to her. Instead, they asked her to raise a toast to the Buddha, get drunk and join the party.

The next day Visakha sought the Buddha’s counsel. Visakha bowed to him and asked, “Venerable sir, what is the origin of this custom of drinking an intoxicant, which destroys a person’s modesty and sense of shame?” The Buddha in response to her request dispensed the Kumbha Jataka, where a man found fermented fruit and water in the crevice of a tree and started to consume the fermented liquid to obtain a false feeling of well-being. It is here:

(http://www.dharmaweb.org/index.php/Jataka_Tales_of_the_Buddha,_Part_III )

***

On one occasion, she sought the Buddha’s solace, as she was annoyed and angry with the tax collectors, who were obviously, over charging on her goods. The king too did not heed to her plea. The Buddha calmed her mind by singing:

Painful is all subjection,
Blissful is complete control.
People are troubled by common concerns,
Hard to escape are the bonds.

It is written, those words of the Buddha comforted Visakha.

***

On another occasion, Visakha asked the Buddha, what qualities in a woman would enable her to conquer this world and the next. The Buddha replied:

“She conquers this world by industry, care for her servants, love for her husband and by guarding his property. She conquers the other world by confidence, virtue, generosity and wisdom.”

***

In appreciation of her wisdom, her generosity to the Dhamma, and the Sangha, the Buddha declared that Visakha be His chief female lay benefactor. In addition to serving the Buddha and the Sangha, Visakha was authorized to arbitrate issues and disputes that arose among the nuns. She was a well-respected person in the Sangha.

She led a long and healthy life and lived for over a hundred years.

Visakha, it is written, retained her youthful charm and her sharp and inquisitive mind even in her later years. A great girl indeed.

Visakha, the fair maiden

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Buddhism

 

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