RSS

Tag Archives: Buddhism

Buddhism of Tibet

1. Early Days

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

2. Buddhism Enters

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

3. Synthesis

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

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

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

4. Vajrayana

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. The Masters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. India’s Debt to Tibet


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

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

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

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

 
5 Comments

Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Buddhism

 

Tags: ,

Jivaka, the physician

Jivaka, the Buddha_s physician. British Library

Jivaka, the Buddha’s physician. British Library

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

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

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

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

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

The Buddha-Jivaka story is a very human story. Their relationship was not cast in the usual mould that one comes across in religious texts. In a way, it de-mystifies the Buddha imagery. The Buddha you meet here is not the ethereal philosopher with his head in the clouds nor is he The God himself. You will find, he not always resembled the serene, ever smiling young Apollo – Greco Roman God like images that sit on our coffee tables or that decorate our bookcases. He was a real man, a wise, compassionate, mellow, independent and a mature person who walked and lived on this land. He did encounter many problems, but more importantly, he got over them with reason and dignity. He suffered from injuries, illness, constipation, diarroehea and other problems related to old age. Whenever he needed help, he did ask for help. But, you never see him losing his composure. Here you see him put forth some unusual but rational views on the day-to-day concerns of the monks and the lay. That brings us closer to the Buddha.

******

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

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

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

On his way back home to Rajagriha, he stopped at Saketha where he came to know that the wife of the richest merchant (setthi) in the town was suffering from a chronic head ache for the past seven years and the local physicians failed to find a cure for her ailment. Jivaka succeed in convincing the rich lady that though young as he was, he would surely rid her of the ailment. He procured some herbs and cooked them in pure ghee obtained from the lady’s household. He made the patient lie on her back on a couch and injected the medicine, he prepared, through her nose. When the injected medicine was flowing out of her mouth, the patient gestured to her servant to mop up that fluid (ghee/medicine) with a piece of cotton and store it a vessel. The bemused physician Jivaka wondered, “That ghee ought to be thrown away, but this stingy woman ordered it to be taken with cotton. I do not know whether I will get my fee. This thrift is rather too much”. After she recovered, the Settani watching the puzzled expression on Jivaka’s face smiled and explained, “That is a good ghee mixed with medicine and can be used for rubbing on sore feet. Don’t be alarmed. I am not so stingy .I will pay you your fee.” She was highly pleased with the miracle cure and paid the young physician four thousand kappanas (silver coins). Her son added an equal amount to his purse.

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

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

Jivaka was also a well-known pediatrician. His name Kaumarabhtya (in Sanskrit) was some times interpreted to mean ‘expert in children’s diseases’. A part of the Bower MSS discovered during1880 in Kuchar of Chinese Turkistan quotes Jivaka’s formulae as the “Navan_taka” (meaning ‘butter’). This medical compilation of the 4th century AD attributes two formulae dealing with children’s disease to Jivaka, saying ‘Iti hovaca Jivakah” i.e. thus spoke Jivaka. One formula is: Bhargi, long pepper, Paha, payasya, together with honey, may be used against emeses ( act of vomiting ) due to deranged phlegma. Some of the cures attributed to Jivaka may be exaggerations, but they indicate the importance attached to accurate observation and deduction in ancient times. (http://www.vigyanprasar.gov.in/dream/may2000/article1.htm)

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

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

***

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

***

Jivaka, the successful young physician, enjoying fame and fortune went to meet his benefactor and adopted father Prince Abhaya and laid at his feet all the wealth he earned. .Jivaka thanked the Prince for his love, compassion and caring. Prince Abhaya appreciated the gesture and said that the gifts were undoubtedly very valuable indeed; but it was not the gift he was waiting for, he said. ”You are my true gift” he exclaimed. Prince Abhaya explained that during Jivaka’s absence he enquired into the circumstances of his birth. His mother, Salawathi, was the sought-after courtesan of the kings and nobility. Wanting to retain her freedom, she discarded her baby who she feared might burden her. Prince Abhaya had unknowingly adopted his own child.

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

*****

The turning point in Jivaka’s life came when Ananda came to fetch him to treat the Buddha who suffered from “blocked intestines” (constipation?).When Jivaka saw the condition of the patient, it occurred to him he might not survive a strong purgative. He then had fat rubbed into the Buddha’s body and gave him a handful of lotuses to inhale the essence emanating from the flowers. Jīvaka was away when the mild purgative was later administered to the patient, and he suddenly remembered that he had omitted to ask him to bathe in warm water to complete the cure process. The Buddha, it is said, read his thoughts and bathed as required.( Vin.i.279f; DhA. ii.164f).

On another occasion when the Buddha’s was injured in his foot by a splinter from a rock hurled by Devadutta (Buddha’s cousin), the Buddha had to be carried from Maddakucchi (a park near Rajagriha) to Jīvaka’s Ambavana residence. There, Jīvaka applied an astringent, and having bandaged the wound, left the city expecting to return in time to remove it. However, by the time he did return, the city gates were shut. He was greatly worried because if the bandage remained on all night the Buddha would suffer intense pain. The Buddha, it is said, read his thoughts and removed the bandage. (J.v.333.).

****

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

 

***

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-.A discipline was introduced which required the monks to take care of each other. The famous advice of the Buddha to the monks, in this context, was,”Ye, O Bhikkhus, have no mother and father to wait upon you. If you wait not one upon the other, who is there, indeed, who will wait upon you? Whosoever, O Bhikkhus, would wait upon me, he should wait upon the sick.”

-.With the introduction of better health care measures in the Sangha , more and more lay persons entered the Order. Many people, afflicted with disease and unable to pay for treatment, joined the Order in order to avail free medical facilities. This influx naturally rendered Jivaka’s task more difficult. He was unable to cope with the increased workload. Further, he thought, the Order was misused. At his suggestion, the Buddha laid down a rule that men afflicted with certain diseases be refused entry into the Order. The diseases prevalent in Maghada of those times included: leprosy, boils, dry leprosy, consumption, and fits (Vin.i.71ff). Later cripples and homosexual were also kept out of the order. (Vinaya, Vol. 4, pp. 141-142.). 

***

Once Jivaka offered to the Buddha, an exquisite shawl earlier presented to him (Jivaka) by a king. The Buddha accepted the celestial shawl, as requested by Jivaka. The Buddha, however, felt that keeping such a valuable shawl in the monastery would attract thieves and endanger His monks. He asked Ananda to cut the shawl into strips and sew it again, so that it would be of little value to thieves. In addition, it would inculcate in the monks a sense of non- attachment to objects. This was how the custom of wearing patched garments came into practice in the Sangha.

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

 

*****

Vegetarianism in Buddhism :

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

 Jivaka sutta :

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

In summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Buddha’s last message to his disciples was:

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

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

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

(DN 16 Maha-parinibbana Sutta)

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

 Buddha myroblalan

Sources and References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2019/10/the-buddhist-kathina-festival.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

 

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Buddhism

 

Tags: , , , ,

Aside

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

Visakha, the fair maiden

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Buddhism

 

Tags: , , , ,

Buddhism of Tibet

India -Tibet and Buddhism

1. Early Days

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

2. Buddhism Enters

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

3. Synthesis

3.1 The religion that Indian monks planted in Tibet was not the one practiced in India at the time. In order to become acceptable to the populace of Tibet it was necessary 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 piety (Karuna). Thus While the form was traditional to the soil, the soul was Buddhist. Bon at the same time also adopted numerous Buddhist practices, attitudes and ideas.

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

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

4. Vajrayana

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. The Masters

5.1 The credit for evolving a wonderful synthesis of the two religious practices goes to the Tibetan monks and their Indian Gurus the prominent among whom, in the early stages, were Padmasambhava and Santarakshita. Padmasambhava built the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet (bSam Yas) around 749 AD modeled on the Odantapura monastery while combining three styles of India, Tibet and China. He persuaded the great scholar Santharakshita of Nalanda to preside over the monastery. Both were men of great learning. While Padmasambhava had his roots in Tantra, Santarakshita was a quiet ascetic in the traditional mold. The Padmasambhava – Santarakshita team was a curious combination of dissimilar capabilities .One complimented the other. One would argue, thunder and coerce while the other could explain, expound, teach and convince. One had a mass appeal; the other had the quiet regard of the elite. One emphasized magic, rituals and success; the other highlighted the value of virtues, contemplation and wisdom. Padmasambhava stood for powerful action; Santarakshita symbolized gentle being. The two great men together molded the attitudes and approach of later day Tibetans. If the Tibetans have successfully accommodated the thunderbolt (Vajra) with the abiding peace of vacuity (Shunya) then a large share of the credit must go to these Masters each working in his own way for the betterment of humanity.

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

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

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

6. India’s Debt to Tibet

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

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

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

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

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Buddhism, History, Sri Sankara

 

Tags: ,

Learning Process in Buddhism

Instructions – Black and White

1.Tibetan Buddhism makes a distinction between the written/spoken interpretation of a text by a scholar (Black Instruction) and the explanation by a Master based his own experience (White Instruction).The latter is more valuable.

To receive “White Instructions”, one has to approach a Master, receive initiation from him and practice it.

 

2. The learning process is in four stages:

 a) Study of texts

 b) Oral percepts and personal notes

 c) Initiation with practical guidance and

 d) practice-meditation and worship

They are in the order of increasing importance.

 

3. The teacher’s role is to help the pupil progress from one stage to the next. The responsibility is, however, on the pupil. He will have to exert and ultimately be free of the teacher.

The Buddha said, “The enlightened ones show the way. Going is your concern.”

 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Buddhism

 

Tags: ,