The omniscient one has no teacher
All have I overcome, all do I know. From all am I detached.
All I have renounced. Wholly absorbed am I in â€˜the
destruction of cravingâ€™. Having comprehended all by myself,
whom shall I call my teacher?
Tanha Vagga - The Dhammapada
Kamma and Rebirth:
Scientific proof not a necessity
KAMMA AND REBIRTH: I read with interest the article on karma and
rebirth by Dr. Seneviratne Epa published in the Daily News of
25.04.2007. He has made a strong case for the shift of perspective
relating to death as a mere cessation of functional connection between
vital organs; increased to see if from a Buddhist perspective.
To illustrate the point he has cited the case of two heart patients,
Somaratne and Karunaratne who were admitted to the hospital together and
medically treated by him alike; but Karunaratne died while the other was
cured of his illness. Similar occurrences which he has witnessed many a
time as a physician have made him look at them from the point of one's
His attempt to explain the manifestation of Karma in one's rebirth
using the analogy of a phenomenon in quantum mechanics is indeed thought
provoking. But, one must be cautious in testing the validity of the
Buddha's Teaching with scientific proof; because discoveries in science
keep changing, thus rendering the earlier discoveries invalid. For
example Newton believed in a universe filled with a substance called
'ether'; he found it was necessary for the determination of the speed of
light. So that when light travelled through ether it was possible to
determine its speed in relation to it. But later it was pointed out by
Einstein that the idea of ether was not required when speed of any
moving body could be determined according to the Theory of Relativity.
We know that the Buddha advised the Kalams not to accept the Noble
Teachings merely because it stands to reason or logic. Why ? Because
only a Buddha has the capability of seeing all the factors (causes) that
bring about a certain situation. Our Knowledge, however highly developed
is not complete as in the case of a Buddha.
In Chula Kammavibhanga Sutta (MN) the Buddha refers to certain
definite conclusions arrived at by yogis who have highly developed their
mind power. Some yogis, the Buddha said, with their developed mind could
see beings appearing and passing away in a series of existence in the
They also come to the conclusion that all beings who do wholesome
acts will invariably be born in higher realms, while those who do sinful
acts will have woeful births after their death. Now, this is in perfect
harmony with logic and reasoning from our point of view. However the
Buddha did not agree.
To Ven. Ananda the Buddha explained: "I do not grant him this. Why is
that? Because Ananda the Thathagata's knowledge of the great exposition
of action is otherwise." That is, from what the Buddha sees and knows,
such a rigid rule is not applicable in all instances; because there are
beings who, even after committing unwholesome acts, born in lofty realms
due to a good kamma which they have done in a past birth or having a
wholesome thought at the moment of death. But the Buddha never said that
such a person would never have to suffer the results of his unwholesome
Kamma. He would meet with his bad kamma at some point of time in his
samsaric journey when the right conditions are present.
A classic example that comes to my mind is Emperor Asoka's rebirth as
a python, despite the enormous amount of kusala kamma he had performed
as the king in protecting and propagating the Buddha Sasana. It happened
because his last thought was one of anger.
In Anguttara Nikaya, a similar incident is reported. A woman called
Migasala was disappointed when the Buddha had told her that both father
and her uncle (father's brother) had died as once-returners (anagami)
and born in the Tusitha heavan.
Over this statement of the Buddha she was confused. She said to
Venerable Ananda, "How ought one to understand this teaching taught by
the Blessed One: namely that one who leads pure, celibate life (brahamcari)
and one who does not lead a similar life will have the very same status
(after death)." Her complaint was that according to the Buddha, her
father who had latterly led a celibate life and her uncle who had led a
contended married life throughout, had the same destiny. According to
her reasoning her father who lived a more pious life than her uncle
should have had a higher birth, after his death, than her uncle. The
Buddha after explaining to Ven. Ananda how kamma works said in clear
terms one should not rush to judge others. Meaning that only a Buddha is
capable of knowing the exact way kamma works in a being. Having said so
the Buddha dismissed Upasika Migasala's conclusions as those of an
immature foolish woman!
The Buddha has declared that one of the four unthinkables is the
result of kamma. It can only be comprehended by a Buddha. The other
three beings the range of a Buddha, range of a meditative absorption (jhana)
and speculation about the world.
The writer, Dr Seneviratne Epa, after explaining that when the brain
cells cease to function there is physical death and consciousness (vinnana)
cannot continue to exist, has raised the question: "if vinnana is so
closely related to functioning or living cells, is it possible for the
reverse to happen? i.e. If vinnana ceases to exist would physical death
The Buddha has answered this question. ......... explaining the Law
of Dependent Orgination (paticca samuppada) to Venerable Ananada, the
Buddha elaborates it with the same question Dr. Senevirtane Epa has
raised. It is recorded in the Mahindana Sutta (DN) as follows:
"I have said: 'consciousness conditions mind-and-body.' 'If
consciousness were not to come into the mothers' womb, would mind and
body develop there? 'No, Lord'. Or if consciousness, having entered the
mother's womb, were to be deflected, would mind and body come to birth
in this life?' 'No Lord'. 'And if the consciousness of such a tender
young being, boy or girl, were thus cut off, would mind and body grow,
develop and mature?' 'No, Lord'. 'Therefore Ananda, just this, namely
consciousness, is the root, the cause, the origin, the condition of
Dr Epa has also referred to the Buddhist Teaching that nothing exits
from the body at the time of death. And he explains the manifestation of
consciousness in the subsequent existence (of the dead being) using the
analogy of the electron which has the ability to change its orbit
without actual travelling, according to the latest discoveries in the
With reference to the same question: whether the soul leaves the body
on the death, there is an interesting dialogue recorded in the Payasi
Sutta in DN. The dialogue is between Ven Kumara Kassapa and the Prince
Payasi, a sceptic who did not believe in the existence of a life after
death. One reason he has given is that the test he would carry out will
not provide evidence of the soul leaving the body on death.
He describes the test as follows: "Ven. Kassapa, take the case that
they bring a thief before me, caught in the act and say" "Take this man
and put him alive in a jar. Seal the mouth and close it with damp skin,
give it a thick covering of damp clay, put it in an oven and light the
fire.' And they do so. When we are sure the man is dead, we remove the
jar, break the clay, uncover the mouth, and watch carefully: 'May be we
can see the soul escaping'. But we do not see any soul escaping, and
that is why, Revered Kassapa, I believe there is no other world."
Prince Payasi's conclusion based on his experiment highlights the
danger in waiting for 'scientific proof' of the Noble Teachings before
one accepts them. The basic principle to understand in the Dhamma is:
'Whatever arises due to conditions would fade away with the cessation of
the conditions'. This is what was realized by Ven Kondanna on hearing
the very first sermon of the Buddha. Similarly Upatissa (before
ordination as Ven Sariputta) realised the principle of conditionality on
hearing a brief stanza from Ven. Assaji. Those venerable discipline of
the Buddha never waited for scientific proof of the Noble Truths before
they followed the path of Dhamma.
Of course there was a monk who demanded answers from the Buddha to
questions such as 'is the soul the same as the body or are they separate
entities; is the world finite or not; does the Thathagatha exist after
death or not' etc etc. (the well known tetra lemma) The Buddha did not
answer any of the questions as they would not lead to deliverance from
suffering. Instead he compared this monk's obstinacy to that of a person
who has been stuck by a poisonous arrow who would not let the surgeon to
remove it and treat him until he found answers to numerous questions
such as: who shot the arrow, was he a Brahamin or a merchant; what is
his name and his clan, is he short or tall etc., the Buddha said the
wounded man would die before he finds answers to them. (Malunkyaputta
So what is needed is not to wait until we find answers to questions
whether one's kamma is stored in one's genes or not, but to follow the
path of Dhamma on the basis that kamma, as explained by the Buddha, is a
condition for existence. And as long as one exists in what ever form in
any one of the 33 realms he is caught in samsaric journey of suffering.
Not only the patient Karunatarne's death has to be seen in the
perspective of kamma but even Somaratne who survived had the kammic
energy to generate continuation of his existence in this birth.
Worldings are subject to the law of kamma. And formation of kamma will
never end until one realises nibbana.
Ven. Siyambalangomuwe Gunaratana Thera:
'Kavi Bana Hamuduruwo'
FOUNDER: The birth anniversary of Ven. Siyambalangomuwe Sri
Gunaratana Thera, the vibrant Buddhist Prelate will be celebrated in all
the institutions he set up all over the country on July 17. The late
Anunayaka Thera of Ramanna Nikaya, has made an indelible stamp on the
contemporary religious, educational, social and cultural scene in Sri
Siyambalangomuwe Sri Gunaratana Thera was born to a Christian family on
July 17,1914 at Yodagama, Rambukkana. He had his early education at
Rambukkana Christian school but later joined a Buddhist temple. He was
ordained a Buddhist Samanera in 1928 as a pupil of Udunuwara Sri
In 1930, he joined Sirinivasa Pirivena, Kadugannawa and was later
educated at Wijewardenaramaya in Eriyagama, Peradeniya. In 1935, Ven.
Siyambalangomuwe Sri Gunaratana Thera received Upasampada or higher
ordination at Kelani Ganga Seemamalakaya.
After passing the Pundit examination, he served as a teacher in
Sirinivasa Pirivena, Kadugannawa. Ven. Sri Gunaratana Thera set up Sri
Sarananda Pirivena in 1952 on a few perches in an undeveloped land in
Peradeniya in honour of his teacher Udunuwara Sri Sarananda Thera.
At that time pirivenas were backward institutions without any State
aid except a nominal grant. Both monks and poorest of the poor who could
not benefit under free education were students in the pirivenas.
However, with sheer hardwork, dedication and sincerity of purpose Ven.
Siyambalangomuwe Sri Gunaratana Thera developed Sri Sarananda to become
a leading educational institution in the Kandy District. By 1960 it was
so advanced, it qualified to be affliated to Vidyalankara University.
Siyabalagomuwe Sri Gunaratana Thera expanded his educational
activities from Sri Sarananda Pirivena, Peradeniya. He got his pupils to
set up Sri Seelavathie Pirivena, Narammala - Sri Sarananda Pirivena
Karavitagara, Chilaw, Sri Sarananda Pirivena, Anuradhapura, Sri
Gunaratana Pirivena, Thismada, Kothmale, Sri Pada Pirivena, Nawalapitiya
Ven. Siyambalangomuwe Sri Gunaratana Thera was a popular preacher of
Bana. In a poll conducted by Lankadipa in 1953, he got over 14,000 votes
and declared the most popular Bana preacher in the Central Province.
It was Siyambalangomuwe Gunaratana Thera who introduced 'Kavi Bana'
or sermons in verses. Although Kavi Bana was much criticised at the
beginning, in his introductory verses he dismissed all criticism made
against them. His Kavi Bana was so popular that Siyambalangomuwe
Gunaratana Thera has held over 15,000 Kavi Bana sessions.
Ven. Siyambalangomuwe Sri Gunaratana Thera has ordained 351 pupils.
It is said that no other Thera since Arhant Mahinda has ordained such a
large number of pupils. And rarely a Bhikku ordained by him has left the
I came to know Ven. Siyambalangomuwe Sri Gunaratana Thera in 1963. I
was a recently passed out graduate teaching in a government school. I
wanted to be close to Peradeniya University to read for the Law degree
as an external student. There was a vacancy in the staff at Sri
Sarananda Pirivena and a friend of mine teaching there introduced me to
the Nayaka Thera.
I could vividly remember our first acquaintance. I told the Nayaka
Thera that I am a Catholic. He replied that my religion did not matter,
he had made inquiries and he was prepared to take me to the staff. I had
to resign from the government service to join the Pirivena. His noble
personality, holy outlook and serene manners so impressed me, that on
his word I sent resignation papers from a permanent and pensionable
teaching post to join the pirivena.
From 1963 to 1967, I taught Government and Sinhala for University
Entrance classes at Sri Sarananda Pirivena, Peradeniya. I consider those
years as the happiest period in my life. It is recorded in the annals of
the pirivena that it was the time that Sarananda has the best university
entrance results. Every year 70% to 80% of students who sat for
university entrance from the pirivena succeeded to enter the University.
We celebrated the results with cultural shows with many items pertaining
to Kandyan areas.
At that time Ven. Siyambalangomuwe Sri Gunaratana Thera had over 40
pupil monks. In addition a considerable number of bhikkus and lay
students from far and wide took residence in the pirivena. For all of
them board and lodging were provided in the pirivena at a nominal rate
within the reach of the poor. As a practising Catholic, once or twice a
week, I attended the services of St. Theresa's Church, Peradeniya which
was just in front of Sri Sarananda Pirivena. In my career at Sarananda
not a single word was uttered to hurt my religious susceptibilities by
the Sangha or the others in the pirivena. They always respected my
In 1965, when Mr. Dudley Senanayake came to pay homage to Dalada
Maligawa in kandy after taking his oaths as the Prime Minister, on his
way back he came to Sarananda Pirivena to see the Nayaka Thera as well.
Nevertheless most of the young graduates on the staff in Sri Sarananda
were Leftists. When recruiting teachers Siyambalangomuwe Gunaratana
Thera never considered their political affiliations nor were they ever
victimised for their political leanings.
I always preferred to wear the national dress for special occasions.
Our Nayaka Thera was overwhelmed with joy, while being a Catholic I wore
the national costume for functions in the pirivena.
When Siyambalangomuwe Sri Gunaratana Thera elected as an Anunayaka
Thera of the Ramanna Nikaya, the Act of Appointment was presented by the
then Prime Minister R. Premadasa on February 09, 1980 at the Magul
Maduwa, Kandy. I too was invited for the occasion. I was a newly
appointed Magistrate and I attended the ceremony in the European costume
as judicial officers were not seen in the national dress. On that
occasion the Nayaka Thera remarked that he expected me there in the
Ven. Siyamabalangomuwe Sri Gunaratana Thera dedicated all his life
and energy for the service of humanity. By firm determination and
indomitable courage he achieved success in everything he ventured. His
pupils have followed the footsteps of their master and have set up
various religious and educational institutions all over the country.
People from all walks of life have benefitted from the vision,
initiative and commitment of Ven. Siyambalangomuwe Sri Gunaratana Thera.
The power that keeps us here and now:
In our modern world we want to see results as quickly as possible.
There is constant pressure to keep up with the latest advances, together
with a fear of being left behind. "We rush into getting results. But
what happens to us when we do that? What happens to us, to ourselves?
These questions should be considered when we sincerely look for peace.
In this context, patience is one of the key qualities that we need to
recognize more consciously. Often, we see patience as old-fashioned; it
looks the opposite of keeping pace with the world. But if we are to find
a way to live together peacefully, the virtue of patience is essential.
How are we when we are patient? How is the state of the body, the mind?
Is it simply negative or passive? Or is it the moment of being
nourished, the moment of regaining our strength?
The moment we are patient we gain inner strength and, more
importantly, it leads us to realise that very moment is complete in
itself. Nothing is missing. "The second we start wanting something to be
over, the moment our minds start pushing towards whatever we think is
coming next, we lose the immediacy of the present moment. "It is
impatience that takes us away from what is happening now. On the other
hand, it is patience that keeps us in the here and now, attending to
each and every moment of our lives."
Courtesy: Forest Sangha newsletter
To mark the advent of Arhant Mahinda and the dawn of a new
civilization in Sri Lanka, Associated Newspapers of Ceylon
Ltd. published â€˜Poson Udanayaâ€™ a Sinhala journal on Poson
Poya Day, and a copy of the publication was handed over to
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on Poson Poya Day at Temple
Trees. Here, Editor of the journal Ruwan Arattanage, Co-ordinating
Editor of Dinamina, handing over copy of the journal to