|Wednesday, 20 August 2003|
The purpose of life
by P. S. Mahawatte
What is the purpose of life? This is a question that has baffled many a philosopher. Unlike the other philosophers, Prince Siddhartha went out to find the answer. After many years of struggle when he be came the Buddha, he found the answer. let us briefly acquaint ourselves with the early life of Prince Sidhartha who became the Enlightened One and found the answer to the purpose of life.
This is how Bhikku Nanamoli related the events. 'I was delicate, most delicate, supremely delicate. Lily pools were made for me at my father's house solely for my benefit. Blue lilies flowered in one, white lilies in another, red lilies in a third. I used no sandalwood that was not from Benares. My turban, tunic, lower garments and cloak were all made of Benares cloth. A white sunshade was held over me day and night so that no cold or heat or dust or grit or dew might inconvenience me. I had three palaces, one for the winter, one for the summer and one for the rains. In the rains palace I was entertained by minstrels with no men among them. For the four months of the rains, I never went down to the lower palaces.'
It should be remembered that all the famous astrologers in the kingdom were summoned by king Suddhodana, the prince's father to forecast the prince's future. The astrologers said that if he remains as a layman, he would become a King Emperor. If he renounces the world, he will become the Buddha.
All agreed that the latter was more likely. So the King took all possible steps to keep his son satisfied and happy, providing him with all possible entertainment and conveniences, so that the thought of renouncing the kingdom will not enter his mind. This description gives an idea as to the splendour and the luxurious life he had and renounced at the prime of his life at 29 years. To leave behind a beautiful wife and child and all these luxuries and as heir to the throne and go into homelessness, wearing just an ordinary yellow robe to protect against flies, mosquitoes and the cold is described as The Great Renunciation.
What was it that he wanted to find. He wanted the answer to why there is birth with all its sufferings, old age, sickness, grief and death and whether this continuing existence - sansara could be brought to an end.
At that time as of today, there were several religious sects and he sat under these teachers or gurus and practised all that they could teach and even reached proficiency of the gurus. But what he learnt did not satisfy him as the answer he was seeking was not forthcoming. All religious sects at that time and even today taught that God created everything including the animals and human beings and the purpose of life is to pray and join godhead after death. This of course did not appeal to our Bhodisatva.
There was one religious sect led by its leader Niganthanatha Putra or Maha Vira who believed that Mokshaya could be achieved only by giving a great deal of torture to the body. The bhodisatva probably wanted to try this theory also by subjecting his body to self torture in the hope that this will reveal the answer he was looking for.
The suttas tell us that he subjected his body to such self mortification that no other human being could have endured. It was his iron will that enabled him to endure such self mortification and he was almost at the death's door when he realized that self mortification like self indulgence will not provide the answer to his search. He abandoned self torture - Athhakilamathanayogo in the same way he abandoned Kamasukalikanayogo - self indulgence as not the ways to find the answer he was seeking and decided on Madyamaprathipada - the Middle Path.
A lesser person would have abandoned his search and returned to his kingdom. But not the Bodhisatva. Instead, with renewed determination and iron will, he sat under a tree which later came to be venerated as the Bodhi Tree, with the resolve, never to get up until he find the answer to the cause of birth and suffering, even if he were to die in this final attempt. On a Vesak Full Moon Day, 2500 years ago, He discovered the Truth that He was seeking and attained Enlightenment and came to be known as the Gauthama Buddha or Samma Sambuddha.
What did the Buddha discover. He discovered the Four Noble Truths - that there is suffering; the cause of suffering; that suffering could be brought to an end and the Path leading to the extinction of suffering - The Noble Eightfold Path. The purpose of life, therefore, is to travel the Nobel Eightfold Path and bring to an end this 'farcical' existence - sansara.
Before anyone undertakes a journey, he should have some idea as to where he wants to go and why. Those who wish to embark on the Noble Eightfold Path too should have a clear vision of the destination. This is why, Buddha laid down as the first step, that the traveller should have Samma Dhitti - the clear vision of the existence of Dhukka and Samma Sankappa the firm determination - Vithakka to proceed along the Path until Nirvana the extinction of suffering is achieved.
Extinction of suffering as explained by the Samma Sambuddha is the purpose of life.
by Mahinda Ramanayake
This is about Bahiya of the Bark-cloth who lived at the time of the Buddha. He was a brahma-farer honoured and venerated by the people of the village. One day while in meditation a thought like this arose in him. "Am I one of those in the world who are Arahants or who have entered the path to Arahantship?" Then a devata who was a former blood relation of Bahiya reading Bahiya's thoughts, approached him and the following conversation took place: "Bahiya you are neither an Arahant nor one who has entered the path to Arahantship".
"Then in the world including the devas who are Arahants? Who are those who have entered the path of Arahantship?"
"Bahiya there is a town called Savatthi in a far country. There now lives the Lord who is an Arahant a Fully Enlightened One who teaches Dhamma for the realization of Arahantship."
Then Bahiya deeply stirred by the words of the devata went in search of the Buddha to Savatthi to Anathapindika's monastery in the Jeta Grove. There the monks who were at that time pacing up and down in meditation told him that the Buddha has gone for alms among the houses.
Then Bahiya hurriedly left in search of the Buddha. On seeing the Buddha he approached fell down with his head at the Buddha's feet and said: "Teach me Dhamma, teach me Dhamma so that it will be for my good and happiness for a long time".
Buddha told Bahiya that it is an unsuitable time to teach Dhamma being the time for alms . On Bahiya's appeal for a third time saying that it is not known how long He will live or how long I will live, Buddha then gave the following instruction to Bahiya: "Herein, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: 'in the seen will be merely what is seen: in the heard will be merely what is heard: in the sensed will be merely what is sensed: in the cognised will be merely what is cognised'. In this way you should train yourself, Bahiya".
"When, Bahiya, in the seen is merely what is seen.... in the cognised is merely what is cognised, then, Bahiya you will not be 'with that': When, Bahiya, you are not 'with that' then, Bahiya, you will not be 'in that': When, Bahiya, you are not 'in that', then Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering".
Through this brief Dhamma teaching the mind of Bahiya was immediately released, from the taints without grasping. Not long after Buddha's departure after this brief instruction to Bahiya, a cow with a young calf attacked Bahiya and he was killed. When the monks inquired as to Bahiya's future birth, Buddha said that Bahiya has attained Nibbana and on that occasion the Buddha uttered the following inspired utterance:
Where neither water
This is the discourse 1.10 in Udana. What is not in italics is the summery of the discourse in the writer's words and what follows is an analysis of the discourse by the writer.
It is evident that Bahiya was one who had fulfilled Virtue, Concentration and Wisdom (Sila, Samadhi, Panna) almost to its perfection and was therefore able to grasp the meaning of the Buddha's brief instruction in an instant and was freed from the taints. Buddha was able to know Bahiya's problem through super normal power and gave the right instruction to suite his problem.
Now when the following thought "Am I one of those in the world who are Arahants or who have entered the path to Arahantship?" arose in the mind of Bahiya, it is evident that an anxiety or a subtle Craving (Tanha) existed in Bahiya for Arahantship. Now as given in the Mahanidana Sutta (DN 15) it is a trait in the Nama Kaya and due to this aspect in the Nama Kaya, however subtle it may be, mental contact takes place with what is seen, heard, sensed or cognized.
When Contact takes place there is the manifestation of Feelings, of Perceptions, and of Mental Activities that obsess the mind (see Majjhima Nikaya 18). When a thing obsesses the mind, that mind is with that thing, when that mind is with that thing that mind is in that thing because that mind clings to it.
Bahiya's only clinging was his desire for Arahantship.
Bahiya was able to trace back Buddha's instruction in an instant, having reasoned as follows: "In me what is the cause that in the seen is not merely what is seen, what is the cause that in the heard is not merely what is heard, what is the cause that in the sensed is not merely what is sensed, what is the cause that in the cognized is not merely what is cognized? It is because I am affected by what is seen, heard, sensed and cognized. Why am I affected? With this question, realization dawned in Bahiya of his anxiety for attaining Arahantship. This was enough for Bahiya's only anxiety or Tanha; which is for Arahantship, to disappear in an instant. By that very disappearance he won Arahantship by attaining Nibbana. Bahiya's problem was that he made Arahantship an object of Tanha and that became his stumbling block.
Buddha's utterance after the Nibbana of Bahiya refers to the state of Nibbana or the unconditioned state. Earth, water, fire and air are called the Four Great Elements. Our body and all other things in the Universe are composed of these Four Great Elements and those derived from them. The Consciousness of an Arahant no longer takes up any body after Final Nibbana. Thus the Four Great Elements can no longer manifest itself in any form to one who has attained final Nibbana.
The third and the fourth lines indicate the nature of the Undefiled Mind, which is described as being Resplendent (see Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Ones Ch. VI). Therefore there is no darkness even without the stars, the moon and the sun. The Undefiled Mind is the basis of Nibbana. The fifth to the last line says that when one realizes Nibbana there is no birth in the Form, Formless or Sense Desire Existences. In other words there is no birth anywhere at all.
The four noble truths
The first Truth is "Dukkha" - suffering;
Birth is suffering, ill-health suffering,
Why do people suffer so much?
When one wish ceases, another arises;
"Extricate if fully - He said, and
By treading the Path-Eightfold, the fourth,
Declaration of Sangamitta Day as the Buddhist Women's Day
At a special discussion organised by the National Council of Buddhist Women, held at Mahaveli Centre Auditorium, Colombo, where a panel of scholars, Most Venerable Dr. Wahumuwe Wijewansa Nayaka Thera, Ven. Prof. Meegoda Pannaloka Thera, Ven. Dr. Moravaka Dhammananda Thera, Ven. Dr. Bhikkuni Kusuma, Professor Y. Karunadasa, Professor Oliver Abeynayake, Dr. Mrs. Hema Gunathilaka, Dr. Mrs. Karuna de Silva, Mrs. Prema Weerasinghe, Mrs. Saumya Kodagoda took part, it was unanimously decided to declare Sangamitta Day (Unduwap Poya Day) as the Buddhist Women's Day, as a mark of respect for the Theri Sangamitta, who has done enormous service to the Buddhasasana and to the women of Sri Lanka.
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