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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.

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 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 infinites 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 enquiry.  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)….”
*

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.

..DSampath

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.

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.

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.

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. 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 skandhascontinue on, powered by past karma, propelling births and rebirths. Here, Karma in essence is not action per se, but 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.

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.

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.

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 – 250CE), 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 Sankhya 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 (c. 600 AD), 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 realityis 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 emphericism. 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. HH the Dalai Lama in his book The Universe in a Single Atomadmitted 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. HH 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

 
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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.

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

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Buddhism

 

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