|Saturday, 6 March 2004|
His Holiness Somdet Phra Nanasamvara:
World's living Sangharaja
by Nemsiri Mutukumara
His Holiness Somdet Phra Nanasamvara (Somatejappavara) celebrated his 90th birthday in his residence Wat Boronivasa in Bangkok, Thailand.
From early hours of dawn people from all walks of life lining up with pirikara and puja to offer to the most disciplined Buddhaputra who has shunned ostentatious lifestyles and leading an extremely simple way of life as shown by the Sakyamuni Buddha.
His Holiness was born at Tambon Ban Nue, Muang District, Kanganaburi in 1913 in the Buddhist era of 2456.
As a young boy he was known as Charoen Kotjawat (Gajavatra in Sanskrit).
Young Charoen entered the Order in 2469-1926 at Wat Thewasangkharam Devasangaram Viharaya. This viharaya belongs to the Maha Nikaya of Thailand. There are only two Nikayas for over three hundred thousand members of the Sangha. The other Nikaya is the Dhammayuttika Nikaya. A highly salutary and appreciable situation.
The young Samanera received Upasampada, at the age of twenty in June 2476-1933 at the same Viharaya.
His first Vassana, he spent at the Devasangaramaya. After the Vassana, receiving the first Vas offering, the Venerable Nanasamvara took up residence in the Wat Bovoranivesa Vihara in 2476-1933.
After taking up residence at Wat Bovoranivasa, he strengthened his ordination - dalhikamma to become a bhikkhu of the Dhammayuttika Nikaya in 2476-1933.
At this ceremony, his preceptor was His Holiness Somdat Phra Vajirananavamsa.
With his taking up residence here, the Wat Bovoranivasa became the main centre of learning Pali.
He also integrated the "tradition and culture of the Wat Bovoranivesa Vihara" which have been passed on from previous teachers.
Six Viharadhipati Mahatheras have resided in Wat Bovoranivasa Vihara previously.
King Mongkut or king Rama IV of the present Chakri dynasty. He resided here for fifteen years from 2379 to 2394 (1836 to 1851).
His Royal Highness Somdet Krom Phraya Pavaretwariyalongkorn (Prince Pawaretwariyalongkorn) Sangharaja was in charge of the Vihara for four years (2394 to 2435) 1851 to 1892.
His Royal Highness Somdet Phra Maha Samanachao Krommapraya Vajirananavarorasa resided in the vihara for twenty-nine, (29) years from 2435 to 2494 (1892 to 1921).
His Holiness Somdet Phra Wachira Yanawong spent here for thirty-seven-(37), years, from 2464 to 2501 (1921 to 1958).
Phra Pommunee was Viharadhpati for three years from 2501 to 2504 (1958 to 1961).
The Sangharaja Nanasamvara, also known as Charoen Suvatthano has as his objective to codify the Wat Bovoranivasa traditions and customs for the people to understand and observe giving them due recognition.
He held a series of discussions with the Bhikkhus of both Maha Nikaya and the Dhammayuttika Nikaya about ways and means of getting pure Theravada traditions observed and practised by all.
He learnt of the loose practices of the Bhikkhus of the day. In many cases their practices were not in conformity with the monastic discipline, as laid down by the Buddha in the Vinaya Pitaka. On the other hand, a large number of Bhikkhus simply followed Buddhism which was deeply influenced by local traditions full of ceremonies of a non-Buddhist mostly Brahmanical nature.
The Sangharaja also inquired from very high ranking bhikkhus about monastic discipline and other buddhist doctrines only to be disappointed because the bhikkhus did not base their explanations upon the Pali Tipitaka.
He says, he found himself, extremely unsatisfied with their answers.
Buddhism of the day was significantly surrounded by non-Buddhist beliefs, particularly Brahmanical elements. It ran the risk of loosing its distinctive identity, its separate identity from local non-Buddhist beliefs.
The Sangharaja has taken note of the increasing conversions of economically under-developed Buddhists by foreign Christian missionaries.
Those Christian Missionaries were largely centered in town.
They had been able to carry on their campaign quite easily because, of the poor contact between the Buddhist temple (Pansala) and the public. The Sangharaja found out that the genuine teachings of the Buddha in the original Pali language were not yet translated into Thai and other native languages.
The original Pali literature were mastered only by a handful of Pali scholars.
The Sangharaja left no stone unturned and got the Bovoranivasa Vihara activated as a centre of writing, translating, printing and publishing Pali texts and Thai translations.
He himself got seriously engaged in academic work, brought in a stream of Buddhist scholarships which circulated among leading Buddhists.
He entrusted Dr. Dan Bearch Bradley to print the books he has already written but hitherto not published.
A printing press was opened at the Bovoranivasa compound, later, the press became the Mahamakuta Raja Vidyalaya press.
A large number of Pali Texts were published and authentic books on the Dhamma written by eminent world authorities were printed.
The Sangharaja is now giving thought to facing the challenges of the modern day. While retaining all the original traditions taught by the Sakaymuni, our bhikkhu sangha should be provided with the knowledge and experience of modern advanced technological activity.
The Sangharaja has initiated through Thai Universities, other higher seats of learning and Viharas to equip the Buddhist learning centres with modern technical and technological equipment so that bhikkhus can gain this new knowledge.
He has also held discussions to obtain training facilities for Thai bhikkhus in foreign countries like Sri Lanka, United States of America and also in Thai Viharas like the Amaravati in Hertfordshire in England.
To date, Thai bhikkhus are studying Theravada Buddhism, Pali language and English language in many universities in Sri Lanka. One of those bhikkhus the Ven. Maha Som Siam initiated many social and cultural programmes jointly with the Sinhala bhikkhus and buddhist leaders. The Thai Embassy in Sri Lanka cooperated in this task. Ven. Maha Som Siam had obtained the approval and the backing of the Sangharaja.
The latest programme
The latest programme was the one-week exposition of the Sacred Relics obtained from the Mahanayaka Thera of the Malvatta chapter of the Siyam Maha Nikaya, the Agga Maha Pandita Saddhamma Saddhammajotikadhaja Maha Ratthaguru Mahanayaka Thera of the Sanghanayake Council of Myanmar and His Holiness the Sangharaja Maha Thera of Thailand at the Parama Dharmma Cetiya Pirivena, Ratmalana.
The programme was jointly organised by the World Fellowship of Buddhist - World Buddhist Peace Foundation and the World Fellowship of Buddhists Dhammaduta Activities.
Very recently, His Holiness the Sangahraja received Christian Dignitaries at the audience hall of Wat Bovoranivasa Vihara, and presented them with books on Buddha Dhamma in English and Thai.
The Buddha's long journey on foot to fulfil his father's wishes
When the Buddha was residing at Veluwanarama, the temple of the bambo grove, offered by king Bimbisara, the king Suddhodana, who was anxious to see his son, sent a minister accompanied by thousand men with his invitation to the Buddha to come to Kimbulwathpura.
At the time when the Minister and his thousand men reached Veluwanarama the Buddha was disseminating the Dhamma to a large crowd. The Minister and his men who listened to the Dhamma, were convinced of the new philosophy, realised the Truth and got themselves ordained. As a consequence, the king's invitation was not presented to the Buddha as was expected.
Having failed his first attempt, the king sent similar missions on eight more occasions, but message was never conveyed.
The king who was still anxious to see his son, sent for his most faithful minister Kaludai, who was a playmate of Prince Siddharatha and told him of his great desire. Minister Kaludai and his retinue too, after listening to the Dhamma, opted to join the order forthwith.
A few days after the ordination, Thera Kaludai, knowing that the time was opportune to place the king's invitation before the Buddha said, "O Lord, King Suddhodana has received good news that the Thathagatha has attained Supreme Buddhahood. He is much desirous of seeing you before he dies. We have been sent purposely to invite you Lord, to kimbulwathpura."
The Buddha thereupon accepted the invitation by being silent as usual with boundless compassion, and decided to walk the entire distance of sixty yoganas on foot; so that He would be of service to all those living on either side of the long way.
Thus, the Buddha with twenty thousand Arahant Bhikkus started on the long journey from Rajagaha to Kimbulwathpura on a Medin Pasalosvaka Poya day.
Vigilance, the path to success
by Dr. Ranil Jayasena
It is not easy for an individual to live amicably and peacefully in this world full of chaos and degeneration, more than development associated with human values, ethics, norms and discipline. It is only the vigilant person who has discretion as the best part of valour, who can escape easily and skillfully from the state of bondage into the state of liberation. Vigilance or mindfulness was characterised by Buddha as the path to immortality.
Dhammapada quotes, "Vigilance is the path to deathless
Heedlessness is the path to death
The Vigilant die not
The Heedless are as if dead already"
Have you heard of Khedda operation, which took place in jungles of India? This is a game of elephant catching where elephant catchers go to the forest beating drums, tins and every conceivable article capable of making the worst noise.
There are four distinct types of elephants, the deaf, the blind, the aggressive and the vigilant. In spite of the big ear the deaf elephant is engrossed with his appetite and doesn't hear anything and easily gets caught.
The blind elephant gets totally confused by the noise of the drums even it provides a clue as to the safe direction as he is completely perplexed and incapable of deciding which way to go for his safety and gets caught there alone.
The aggressive elephant is bad tempered and vicious and ever ready to fight out. As the elephant catchers have superior strength and come well armed to battle, this reckless type of elephant gets forcibly subdued after an unsuccessful fight and retreat.
The vigilant elephant is ever mindful and discreet. He knows the outcome of giving a fight or being stupid enough to be indecisive and not withdrawing to safety. Therfore he retires to the safe areas of the forest discreetly and retains the freedom forever. He is truly heroic and in fact the elephant catchers are scared of him.
There are equivalent categories of human beings in this world. There are the permissive, the dogmatic, the aggressive and the vigilant type. The permissive human beings are engrossed in sensuality, in possessiveness and in the pleasures of the world.
They think they can make the best out of life only through sensual indulgence and therefore do not perceive the warnings of the realities of life, which are freely available in and around us if only we notice them.
The dogmatic human beings are blinded not so much by worldly pleasures or gains, but by a much more insidious ideological insularity.
They are the narrow minded, intolerant people who stick to their views and dogmas, whether religious or empirical.
The aggressive individual believes in violence, in war, in destruction of life, in cruelty as a valid means to achieve his objectives in life. He is blinded by his own emotions and is mentally sick most of the time. He suffers because of his self-created conflicts and struggles and invariably more vicious forces of aggression subdue him.
The vigilant type of human being is the one who takes full cognizance of the realities of life and responds to them prudently. He makes use of life as a tool for achieving perfection and excellence and sticks to practical realism based essentially on understanding, purity of conduct and mental culture.
Vigilance or mindfulness brings about an integration of the mind and therewith a composure and calmness and increasing clarity of mind.
The Buddha-Dharma and its exegetes
by D. Amarasiri Weeraratne
Buddhism is a religion that originated and evolved in India. Therefore we should expect to find many features of Indian culture and thought in Buddhism. When the ancient Aryans entered India from the North, they brought with them their primitive religion in which they worshipped the forces of nature. They offered animal sacrifices to their gods to placate them and get good harvests, favourable weather conditions.
Karma and Rebirth
These men knew nothing of Karma and Rebirth, and the Sansara concept was unknown to them. Their gods were mighty warriors or drunkards with no moral scruples etc. However when these Aryans came in contact with the natives of India after conquering their fertile lands and driving them South, they learnt of Karma and Rebirth.
The Sansara-concept, renunciation of the lay-life, and meditation in forests. The Pancha Sila (Five Precepts) etc. Hence by the time the Buddha came on the scenes the Aryan Brahmins had absorbed much of the superior religious values, morals and ethics from the natives who probably were Dravidians of the Mohenda Jara and Harappa civilians.
So, living a culture that accepted and took for granted Karma, Rebirth, Sansara-concept, Renunciation, Meditation and Nirvana as the summum bonum the Buddha taught his Dharma incorporating these teachings. With regard to the prevailing Brahman teachings, the Buddha took over some, amended and revised some and rejected others.
The main items rejected were animal sacrifices, the sacrosant nature of the caste system as divinely ordained and anti-feminism and down-grading of women - which later became the social theory of Manulaws.
The teaching that repeated births and deaths in Sansara constitutes suffering (Dukkha) is accepted in Brahminism and its later development as Hinduism. Siva, Vishnu, Kirishna, Kali etc. were unknown to the Brahmin religion prevalent in the Buddha's day.
There was no proliferation of castes as came in later. Abominable practices like Suttee (burning of widows) and untouchability were unknown. There were only four castes and three vedas.
Thus when we read the Buddha's sermons in the Canonical texts we find the gods of the Brahmins being quietly appropriated and incorporated as Buddhist gods - paying respect and obedience to the Buddha.
The war-like India, slayer of the enemies of the Aryans has changed his colours and morals under Buddhism. The drunkard gods have become sober devotees of the Buddha. The Four Guardian gods of the Brahmins have become Buddhist votaries.
The Sutras which portray Yama, King of Hell judging Sinners and consigning them to hell-fire are eerie yarns of monk-editors.
The Buddha's genuine doctrines are the Four Noble Truths the Eightfold - Path, Dependent origination and Karma and Rebirth. He had his own concept of Nirvana.
His Anatta doctrine
His Anatta doctrine is said to be unique feature in Buddhism. All other religions and philosophies in the world teach there is survival factor in man which goes from life to life in the process of rebirth.
Buddhism too admits that death is not the end and man survives death to live other lives. Men survive death and are reborn in terms of their virtuous or evil deeds in this life. So you cannot teach Karma and Rebirth without a doer of deeds and a reaper of retribution.
In hundreds and thousands of Sutras the Buddha spoke of a doer of deeds and a reaper of rewards or punishments.
But there are a few Sutras such as Anatta Lakkana Sutra, Alagaddupama Sutra where the Buddha denies a doer of deeds, or a self faring on in Sansara. This is a big enigma in Buddhism. Confronted with this terrible enigma, Buddhists have been at pains to explain this discrepency.
Convention and Ultimate Truth
There are apologists who offer apologetius to explain this puzzle. They say the Sutras are meant for the common people in everyday language they understand and the Sutras which deny a person, self or soul, i.e. a doer of deeds is meant for the philosophically advanced people.
Thus the Buddha has taught two truths called Convention and Ultimate Truth. It is very strange indeed why the Buddha has taught two contradictory truths. At the same time there are passages in the Sutras which say "Truth is one and there is no second". "Truths are not manifold and multi-farious".
The Buddhism we find in the world today are sectarian forms based on the original teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha's teachings were committed to writing some 500 years after his demise. His disciples formed themselves into bands and memorised the various parts of the Tripitaka.
Having brought down the teachings by memory, finally they met at Aluvihare under the patronage of a provincial ruler and wrote down the scriptures. By that time all kinds of additions accretions and concoctions had entered the orally brought down Tripitaka.
A third Pitaka called Abhidharma Pitaka had been concocted by pedantic monks between the 2nd and 3rd Councils. This consisted of seven books which the concoctors averred were the teachings of the Buddha, not to men on earth but to the gods of the Tavatimsa.
Neither the abhidharma nor the 3rd Council which adopted it as the Buddha-word is recognised and accepted by the Maha Sangikas who dissented from the Theravada and broke away to form their own sect which became the prototype of Mahayana Buddhism.
The Theravadins maintained that Abhidharma is the teaching of the Buddha. The Sarvastivadins maintained that their seven Abhidharma books were authored by seven of their teachers whose names they have divulged.
(from the Chabbisodhana Sutta)
The Blessed One, who knows and sees,
Physical form brings clinging,
This the Blessed One has proclaimed.
So, Venerable Friend, tell us,
Bikkhus, if this one amongst you,
Friends, having known,
- U. Karunatilake
Produced by Lake House