Guard yourself like a fortified city
Like a border city, guarded within and without, so
guard yourself. Do not let slip this opportunity, for they who let slip
the opportunity, grieve when born in a woeful state. Niraya Vagga -
The essence of Buddhism
BUDDHISM: The Buddha's last words to the bhikkhus, before his
parinibbana, were: "Now monks, I declare to you: all conditioned things
are of a nature to decay, work out your salvation without delay.' (Vayadhamma
sankhara, appamadena samapadetha).
In this very brief exhortation the Buddha did not make reference to
dukka (suffering), cause of dukkha, or the liberation from dukka.
Also to Upatissa (i.e. Ven. Sariputta before ordination) who was in
search of a teacher of dhamma, Ven. Assaji replied in a concise
statement the teaching of Buddha; answering Upatissa's query as to the
teacher under whom he has taken refuge, Elder Assaji said:
"Of all those things
that from a cause arise,
Thathagatha the cause
there of has told;
And how they cease to be,
that too he tells,
This is the doctrine
of the great Recluse"
In the scriptures we find a similar epithet used to announce and
convey the realisation of the initial stage of experiencing the dhamma
by a stream winner (sothapanna).
The first disciple of the Buddha to have become a sothapanna was Ven.
Kondanna; it happened while he was listening to Dhammacakkapavatana
sutta - the first sermon of the Buddha.
The sutta says the eye of Dhamma arose in Kondanna in that he
realized 'whatever that arises due to causes all that are subject to
cessation" (yan kinci samudaya dhammam sabbantham niridha dhammam).
The same epithet was used in Dhiganaka sutta to announce the
realization of sottapanna stage by Dhiganaka, Ven. Sariputta's nephew.
True, a Buddha arises in the world to teach the four Noble Truths -
(1) the dukkha, (2) cause of dukkha, (3) cessation of dukkha (i.e.
nibbana) and (4) the way for liberation from dukkha which is the Noble
But to Ven. Ananda, the Buddha in a single stanza explained what
every Buddha would teach. It is the famous verse most Buddhists will
know: (sabba papassa akaranam...)
"Refrain from evil
Cleanse the mind
This is the teaching of Buddhas"
Surprisingly, there is no reference to dukkha, cause of dukkha or
cessation of dukkha or cessation of dukkha (nibbana). Yet; this is the
essence of Dhamma as taught by every Buddha. Does it mean that we need
not learn the three Noble Truths not referred to in this verse?
This question has to be examined from a practical point of view.
Perhaps it can be better understood through an illustration. What should
a patient do to cure from his illness? Take the medicine prescribed by
the physician and that's all. He need not know the scientific analysis
of his illness.
A child who is afflicted with an illness will even not know that he
is sick. He simply takes the medicine given to him by his parents, and
he would be cured from his illness.
On the other hand, if a patient without taking the medicine, keeps
researching about his illness to know what caused it; or keeps on
reading the prescription and reciting it many times like a mantram will
he get cured? Never, not by those means.
The extinction of suffering can come about only by practising the way
of Dhamma. That is why every Buddha will stress the importance of
treading this 'ancient path' they discover, rather than merely reading
the 'sign boards' giving directions.
The verse above referred to contains nothing but the three essentials
for one's progress towards deliverance i.e. sila, samadhi and panna. In
other words, it is the Noble Eightfold Path.
Sila is moral restraint - not allowing one's desires generated by
craving (thanha) for sensual pleasures (as well as aversion) to let
lose. If we simply give in to our desires we will be behaving like wild
beasts. Craving for sensual pleasures has no bounds unless controlled by
Like a fire that burns any amount of fuel, craving is insatiable.
But, why should we not seek satisfaction through indulgence. Is it wrong
because of a taboo according to the Teachings of the Buddha?
No, a Buddha can only teach us the way to end dukkha; it is for us to
follow the way. We should consider ourselves very fortunate to be born
at a time when the Noble Teachings are found and can be practised.
If we let go this opportunity we are to be blamed for it. Indulgence
in sensual pleasures will only keep us blind to reality; to use the
famous simile, it is like the crab's fleeting water dance in the curry
pot. Indulgence in sensual pleasures would only make us stupidly delay (pamada)
and postpone practising the way of the Buddhas.
This is why the Buddha exhorted the bhikkhus in his last words, 'be
heedful'. No amount of mere theoretical knowledge of the Buddha's
Teachings would be of any use if we do not earnestly practise in
accordance with the Noble Eightfold Path. If not, it would be similar to
a patient reading the prescription without taking the medicine.
Full awareness - sathi
When a person's sila is intensified, his awareness (sathi) will
naturally develop, for there has to be awareness before one could
observe the arising of the desires in one's mind.
In this manner sila and sathi will work together to bring about
calmness of the mind which is smadhi. It is the samadhi that helps one
to detect the arising of desires at its initial stage so that one's sila
and sathi will work together to bring about calmness of the mind which
It is the samadhi that helps one to detect the arising of desires at
its initial stage so that one's sila becomes more refined. But, still
there would be desires arising in such a way to justify giving into it.
Say, even in the form of directing mettha to a person of the opposite
Beware of your mind which is so cunning and artful in getting what it
wants through deception! At this stage one has to have developed
skillfulness (panna) in determining what is wholesome (kusal) and
Wholesome deeds or kusal are the bodily, verbal and mental activities
that lead one towards cessation of dukkha-i.e.nibbana. It is through
panna one determines kusal and akusal.
Through right effort one should suppress all akusal from arising and
develop kusal. To do this, one must develop clear comprehension (sathi
samapajanna) or full awareness. The combined work of sila, samadhi and
panna will now keep the practitioner in the right track.
What happens is, with full awareness he would 'let go' every
sensation, including the most subtle ones; no matter whether they are
wholesome or unwholesome, so that even if a person has a vision of the
Buddha while in meditation, he should 'let go' the vision without
It is due to attachment to sensations and grasping (upadana) them one
gets carried away with what one has grasped. When one does not grasp and
let go, with full awareness, one is free from attachment and there will
be no more dukkha for him.
By mere intellectual knowledge of Buddhism one will not be able to
'let go' sensations with nonattachment. It can only be achieved by
practising the Noble Eightfold Path which leads to the realization: 'all
that arise due to causes are subject to cessation'.
This is the essence of Buddhism. This is the fundamental reason for
dukkha, which Upatissa realised when he listened to Elder Assaji's
For convenience a person might get into a state of complacency that
he is so learned in the Dhamma that he can 'let go' any thing.
But the real test comes at the moment of his death. Unless he has
developed the skill to the extent of instinctively 'letting go' what
ever the sensation, mere intellectual understanding of the Dhamma would
not be sufficient for his consciousness to release the grasp.
His consciousness would cling on to the last sensation like the
person who grasps even a straw to save his life when he is at the
threshold of being drowned.
If this is the case, why did the Buddha preach the other three Noble
Truths? The answer is, if the Buddha did not preach them, no one would
have accepted the Noble Truth relating to the Path only.
Supposing, if a person did not even suspect that he was afflicted
with a cancer would he take treatment? No, in the same way there must be
initial acceptance of the Noble Teachings (about dukkha), for a person
to generate right view (samma dhitti) by placing his confidence in the
Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha.
'Right view' being the first step on the path of Dhamma is so
essential. But, that does not mean to suggest one should learn the
Dhamma in depth before one begins practising.
The Buddha's Instructions
The Pali Canon has enough examples where the Buddha had not preached
the four Noble Truths to every one who came to him, but just what was
necessary, of course having regard to their past accumulations which
only a Buddha has the ability to do.
The best example is the instructions given to Bhikku Nanda (former
prince) who was feeling so depressed because he could not return to his
fiancee-Janpadakalyani as requested by her when he was walking behind
When the Buddha came to know about his problem, using his psychic
powers the Buddha made him to see beautiful nymphs in the deva world.
Nanda then agreed to meditate as instructed by the Buddha, not for
extinction of suffering but to be born in the heavens so that he could
have a celestial nymph as promised by the Buddha!
Nevertheless, Nanda was fully cured of his desire for lust with the
realisation of ultimate truth of Nibbana.
He immediately released the Buddha from the promise he had made.
What is to be understood from this is the importance of practice
without which there would be no progress towards liberation.
The purpose of this article is not to discourage those who wish to
study the Buddha's teaching, but to convey to them that Dhamma is
understood better when one studies it while practising.
It's like doing practical experiments in the school laboratory by
Only after seeing sunlight passing through the prism the student gets
convinced that it has seven colours. Dhamma is sandhittika i.e. it has
to be realized through direct knowledge.
Meditation for communal harmony and individual well-being
Ven. Sasthrapathi Moraketiare Dhammika Thera the chief incumbent of
Sri Mahindarama temple, Wadduwa with a group of young meditators.
MEDITATION: The Ven. Sasthrapathi Moraketiare Dhammika Thera,
the chief incumbent of Mahindarama temple, Wadduwa who visited Thailand
and stayed at Wat Sanhathan Nonthaburi temple at Thailand is impressed
by the meditation and the basic Buddhist teachings inculcated to the
children in the early stage of their lives in order to promote communal
harmony and individual well-being in society.
He has observed that the meditators should keep the eight precepts
throughout the entire duration of the stay and drug, alcohol or
cigarettes usage is strictly prohibited.
There are twenty-one rules which should be observed by the meditators
to achieve success in the meditation programme.
The children of Thailand who observe seven days meditation and
Buddhist teachings at Wat Sangathan temple in Thailand clad in white
or light coloured wear.
Ven. Moraketiare Dhammika Thera states that the meditation programme
at Wat Sanhathan temple trains the young children to be disciplined from
early stage of their lives and create a special love for Dhamma.
Further, the training received by the students inculcates in their
hearts good practices such as obeying their elders and paying due
deference to their teachers observing punctuality.
He suggests that even in Sri Lanka young children should be brought
up in religious environment and every student should undergo a
meditation course similar to that of Thailand to set up a decent and a
Appreciation of a missionary monk:
Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda Nayaka Maha Thera
"Dulabo purisanno naso sabbatha jayathi" The birth of noble
personalities is a rarity. Such persons would not be born everywhere.
Three months have gone by since passing away of this scholar monk. This
article is in memory of Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda.
Without a beginning and an end over unimaginable aeons of time
rolling cycles of cosmos unfold themselves as world produces
civilisations that fall into decay and pass away.
Entire universe planetary systems whirling in the vastness of space
emerge from their gaseous wombs live out their span of life and
Man caught in this blind cosmic machinery, is blind because ignorant
man struggles pitifully matching his puny strength against huge
impersonal forces of this cosmic process. This is what Gauthama
The Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda Thera propagated Gauthama
Sammasambuddha's Dhamma for well over 60 years.
The Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda was born on March 18, 1919 at Matara
Kirinde. At the tender age of 12 he was ordained as a Samanera under the
auspices of Ven. Kotavila Ratnapala. Receiving higher ordination at the
age of 22, he entered Vidyalankara Pirivena in Kelaniya.
Later he joined Baranesa Hindu University in India and obtained MA.
After returning to Sri Lanka he started teaching Dhamma.
Accepting the invitation extended by Brikfield Buddhist Mahavihara,
Kuala Lumpur, Mahanayaka Thera left Sri Lanka in 1952. This was a new
beginning for this erudite monk.
He founded the Sasana Abbiwurdhiwardane Society in Malaysia for
propagation of Dhamma.
In recognition of his services he was awarded a series of honorary
degrees from USA, UK, France and Sri Lanka. Many books written by Ven.
Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda gave comprehensive solutions in the study of
Buddhism and personal spiritual solace to millions of people all over
I was fortunate and privileged to listen to this scholar monk many
years ago. May I recall what he said, "I have been a monk for the last
50 years, but I have not converted a single person." 'What a failure'
but he went on, "I have convinced few millions," this was the artistry
of this scholar monk.
Ven. Dr. Kirinde Sri Dhammananda Thera's contribution to the mankind
will be remembered for years to come. I am sure many books written by
this erudite monk will make his name better known and remembered with
gratitude by future generations.
May the Mahanayaka Thera attain the unoriginated unborn happiness
what Samma Sambuddha discovered and proclaimed as Nibbana.