Bad Kamma can be overcome with good Kamma
In a Dhamma discussion with the Daily News Buddhist Spectrum Most
Venerable Agga Maha Panditha Bellana Gnanawimala Thera explains
intricate issues related to the Dhamma.
Q: Offering Ata Pirikara (requisites) to the Maha Sangha is
considered a meritorious deed. However unlike in the past, today the
items in the Ata Pirikara are not used by the monks. For example since
the Sangha hardly go on alms round (Pindapatha) and the bowl is not used
often. In such a context, will offering requisites help acquire us the
same level of merit?
Most Venerable Agga Maha Panditha
Bellana Gnanawimala Thera
A: When you consider the practical use of it, the requisites
are not used by the monks as it was done in the past. However based on
that no one can say that there is a difference between the level of
merit one gains by offering requisites today and in the past. Merit is a
positive feeling that is born in one's mind when committing a good deed.
I do not think that the level of merit one acquires by offering Ata
Pirikara depends on to which extent the offered item is used by the
receiver. Whether the receiver uses it or not is not relevant. What is
more important is your pious mind at the time you make the offer.
Q: The ill effects of certain bad Kamma that we have committed
in our previous births can be overcome by engaging in certain
meritorious deeds during this birth. However if a person passes a
malefic period which brings ill effects that are fatal, is it possible
to overcome the ill effects by engaging in good deeds?
A: Yes, It is possible. According to Buddhist literature there
are instances where the bad Kamma committed in the previous birth were
overcome by engaging in gook Kamma during this birth.
For example when a small child was taken to the Buddha to get his
blessings the Buddha did not wish him long life as he did to his parents
when they worshipped him. When inquired why the Buddha said the small
child's life span is limited only to a few days.
The Buddha told the parents what was to be done to overcome the ill
effects which are fatal. When these rituals were practised he could
overcome the bad Kamma.
Also during the time of the Buddha Anuruddha Thera's sister got a
rash all over her body. When Ven Anuruddha Thera brought the matter to
the attention of the Buddha, The Enlightened One told the Thera that his
sister's condition was due to a certain bad Kamma she had committed in
one of her previous births. She was completely cured by following the
practices recommended by the Buddha.
Q: Today the people seek the advice of astrologers very often
and the latter thrive on people's misery. For instance an astrologer
predicts that a certain person is passing a malefic period which would
bring ill-effects that are fatal and gives a remedy to overcome it. Can
an astrologer give remedies for all these ill effects and do these
remedies always bring results?
A: From the past there had been methods that were used to
overcome the ill effects. Rituals such as cutting limes (Dehi Kepeema),
wearing talisman and chanting pirith, are commonly used.
There are instances where such remedial measures have helped overcome
the ill-effects that are fatal. But you cannot always count on them. It
depends on the gravity of the Kamma you have committed in the previous
However another factor too should be taken into consideration here.
It is important to consider whether the remedy is accurate or whether
the prediction is wrong! For example an astrologer would advise you to
wear a talisman to over come a 'Maraka Apala' and you do as you are
told. Since no bad luck strikes the credit goes to the astrologer!
However the truth is that you were not passing a bad period, it was
merely a wrong prediction made by the astrologer!
Q: Compared to the past now the population has increased. The
Samsara is a series of life and deaths. How can we explain the increase
of population based on the teachings of the Buddha?
A: The world in which we live is only one of several different
worlds. Also there
are worlds which have not yet been found. Even scientists agree that
there is an unlimited number of beings in the universe. When one world
gets destroyed, the number of beings born in another world gets
There is another fact. Those who develop their mind to the extent of
achieving Arahanthood are not reborn. That leads to the decrease in
Q: Is not that an extremely rare situation? Nowadays we hardly
A: Yes, that leads to decrease in population. Even though
population is on the rise, natural disasters such as floods, volcano
eruptions, tsunami take a heavy toll on the population.
Q: "Man's position according to Buddhism is supreme. Man is
his own Master and there is no higher being that sits in judgement over
his destiny." If that is the case, how can we justify human beings
seeking the assistance of gods to get their wishes fulfilled?
A: Man's position according to Buddhism is supreme. There is
no doubt about that, however there are certain things that gods and evil
spirits are capable of doing which cannot be done by human beings. There
are powerful gods and evil spirits who can play a role in controlling
For example people go to Kataragama and make vows to get certain
things done. On many occasions such vows have brought about good
Q: However humans have to bestow merit on gods and they cannot
do it themselves.
A: True, human beings have more opportunities to acquire
merit. However as I said earlier when it comes to controlling diseases,
natural disasters etc gods seem to have more power. That is what we have
The ones who are born as gods have done a lot of merit in their
previous births. If necessary they can be born in the world of humans
If they want they can attain Nirvana. There are instances where those
who were first born in human worlds are reborn in heaven as gods and
have attained Nirvana.
Q: Conducting Perehara is done on a large scale by Buddhist
temples and other religious places. What is the significance of it and
should it be an essential component of religious rituals?
A: Conducting Pereharas will not help one acquire merit. But
such rituals are necessary for the existence of religions. When it is
done with the participation of the devotees of these respective
religions it helps establish harmony among people.
Pereharas are conducted on a massive scale to add colour and glamour
to the respective religious place, a temple, Kovil or a Church. It is a
(Next week: practice of Metta meditation and benefits)
The Buddhist concept of happiness
The Theravada School of Buddhism regards the Dhammachakkappavattana
Sutta as the quintessence of the teaching of the Buddha (Sumedho, 1992).
This sutta was the first sermon the Buddha delivered after His
enlightenment. This sutta is a rich source of essential information for
correct understanding of the Dhamma and for enlightenment. But it is
said that the Buddha contemplated seated under the Bodhi tree how to
present the Dhamma to the world as He knew that what he realized was not
going to be easy and simple for comprehension by the ordinary people.
At this instant it is said that Brahma Sahamapti (the creator deity
in Hinduism) approached and persuaded the Buddha to go and teach the
Dhamma as there wou d be beings who had only a little dust in their
eyes, who could understand it.
The Buddha on His way from Bodh Gaya to Varanasi was met by an
ascetic who was impressed by the Buddha's radiant appearance and asked
"What have you discovered?" The Buddha declared" I am the perfectly
Enlightened One, the Arahant, the Buddha." But this ascetic could not
understand what the Buddha was preaching and he walked away. Then the
Buddha met His previous companions in the Deer Park in Varanasi, where
the five ascetics were still sincerely dedicated to strict asceticism.
At first sight they ignored the Buddha. However when the Buddha came
near them they saw something radiant in Him and they automatically stood
before Him and offered a seat.
It was at this situation that the Buddha delivered His first sermon -
the Dhammachakkappavattana Sutta. Buddha insightfully analyzed
suffering, its origin, its cessation and the path leading to supreme
happiness. In the Udditha sutta it is stated that the world rests on a
framework of suffering (Dukkeloko pattittito).
In suffering lies the origin of Buddhism, and in the deliverance of
suffering is its culmination (Dhammapala, 1969), So Buddhism is not a
pessimistic religion as some try to tarnish it, but one that shows the
way to happiness as it teaches the human beings the deliverance from
sorrow. Every human being likes to be happy (Sukkakama) and shuns
suffering (Dukkapattikula) as indicated in the Skpphna sutta and the
Payasi sutta respectively.
In Buddhism there are the Four Noble Truths, The first is the Noble
Truth of Suffering (Dukka Satya). Suffering is ubiquitous. Everybody
everywhere suffers. Dukka in Pali means incapable of being
satisfied/incapable of making us happy. There are three types of
suffering. Firstly physical and mental suffering (Dukka dukkata).
Secondly there is the vipainama dukkata where separation from loved
ones, associating with unfriendly people, not receiving what is expected
or liked are some situations. However Buddhism does not negate the happy
feelings associated with the senses.
People are attracted towards beautiful objects. But this attachment
is subject to decline and cause unhappiness. There is temporary
happiness in sensual pleasure (Mahali Sutta). In fact in the Angattura
nikaya in the Sukka vagga twenty four types of happiness (sukka) have
been mentioned. Laymen can enjoy four types of happiness (Attha, Bhoga,
Anana and Anavajja) which are known as Gihi sepa as described in the
Anna sutta. The third is Sankara dukkata. Sankara (volitions/activities)
are dependent on ignorance according to Patticcasamuppada or the
Doctrine of Dependent Origination. One should understand Dukka in
relation to life and make an attempt to get rid of it and become happy.
For this one should understand the second Noble Truth of the Origin of
Suffering (Samudaya Sattaya).
There is three aspects of it namely the desire for sense pleasure
(kama tanha), the desire to become/to be born again and again and stay
alive (bava tanha) and the desire quite contrary to bava tanha (vibava
tanha). The third Noble Truth is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of
Suffering (Dukka Niroda Sattaya) where one has to reject, relinquish,
leave aside and renounce craving through contemplation, non attached
reflection, vision, insight, wisdom and realization.
The Fourth Noble Truth is the Noble Path leading to the Cessation of
Suffering (Dukka Niroda Pratipada Ariya Sattya). This is the Noble Eight
fold Path or the Middle Path in Buddhism. It avoids the two extreme
paths - one that promotes excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures
(Kamasukkallikanuyoga) and that indulging in excessive pain and
suffering/penance (Attakilamatanuyoga). The Middle Path is described
under three disciplines. Firstly under Wisdom (Panna) comes Right
Understanding (Samma Ditthi) and Right Thought (Samma: Sankappa).Under
Morality (Sila) there are three components; Right Speech (Samma Vaca),
Right Action (Samma Kammanta) and Right Livelihood (Samma a:je:va).
Lastly under Concentration (Samadhi) come Right Effort (Samma:
Va:ya:ma), Right Mindfulness (Samma:Sati) and Right Concentration
(Samma: Sama:di). When these three approaches are followed the
defilements that mar or block the path for enlightenment (Nibba:na) are
eliminated. The eight factors are interdependent. For instance morality
(sila) is intimately connected to equanimity (maitri) and loving
kindness (karuna). In turn these are closely related to ones wisdom
(panna), although the basic foundation of life rests on morality (sila)
which leads to a disciplined lifestyle. The supreme happiness is Nibbana
(Nibbanam paramamsukkan) as stated in the Dhammapada and is achieved by
following the Noble Eight fold path/Middle Path for which elimination of
clinging (upadana) is vital.
According to patticcasummapada, dependent on craving there is
clinging and depending on clinging there is becoming (tanha paccaya
upadanam; upadanam paccaya ja:ti). Nibbana is the sum mum bonum of
Buddhism and when the wonderer Jambukhadaka asked Venerable Sariputta
about Nibbana the Venerable Sariputta observed that Nibbana is
extinction of greed, hate and delusion.
Again Venerable Sariputta has answered the same question put by
another wonderer, Samandakani, as 'to be reborn is suffering and not to
be reborn is happiness' - (Bodhi, 2007) The human being living in
accordance with the principles and practices laid down in the Noble
Eight fold Path uprooting clingings as far as possible, can lead a happy
life although it is essentially of a temporary nature as a wayfarer in
the endless Samsara. But for supreme happiness to be achieved complete
eliminating clinging (upadana) becomes crucial.
This achievement is dependent on individual attitudes, endeavours and
experiences. The Buddhist concept of happiness is briefly discussed in
the Dhammachakkapavattana sutta and a rich discourse is found in the
Pacca Vibanga sutta. In both the focus is on the Four Noble Truths.
beacon of Buddhist education:
The 116th Dhamma School commemoration ceremony was held under the
patronage of Malwatu and Asgiri Maha Nayaka Theras with the
distinguished participation of Prime Minister D M Jayaratna in Gampola
at the National Heritage Centre on August 3.
The government has launched a number of programmes to mark the 2600th
Sambuddhthva Jayanthi year targeting every age group in the country.
Children who attend Dhamma Schools have been an important crowd when it
comes to Buddhist education of 116 years.
"The history of Buddhist education is quite significant as it marks
the All Ceylon Dhamma School Day. We have a history we can be proud of,
but it fast vanishing because of indirect foreign influence. Now it is
high time we did something to restore the Buddhist education."
All Ceylon Sasanarakshaka Bala Mandala President Ven Welamitiyawe
Kusaladhamma Thera said, adding that from 1505 to 1815 three foreign
nations had been trying to manipulated the local education.
However they did not succeed in the mission. Finally a British
Governor, in charge of the coastal area, wrote a letter to the British
government that the unity of the Sinhala community and their respect
towards the temple is a stumbling block to achieve their targets of
manipulating the local education.
Failing those options, Venerable Thera explained, the British had
been making fresh plans to capture the country. They worked secretly to
fracture the link between community and the temple. It was a success, at
last. As a result, Sri Lanka gradually became a colony.
However later in history Colonel Henry Steel Olcotte came to Sri
Lanka and established Dhamma schools through Buddhist Theosophical
Society. The first Dhamma School was established in Galle.
They named these schools as Sunday Schools. The Buddhist education
led the community to the teachings of the Buddha. Presently around
10,000 Dhamma Schools offer service to teach Dhamma, protect and develop
The Buddhist Affairs Department is now working on a project to
provide Rs 2000 and uniform for every Dhamma School teacher in the
country. This is a step taken to mark the 116th anniversary. The
government has also offered Rs 150,000 to 2600 selected Dhamma schools
to mark the 2600th Sambuddhatva Jayanthi. The Department, in addition,
will provide scholarships for Grade 10 children of Ampara District
Dhamma schools who have obtained higher marks in the examination. About
153 children are qualified for the scholarships.
Conducting a Dhamma School flag week is also in the pipeline. Each
flag will be priced at Rs 5. The funds will be allocated for medical
facilities of the Dhamma School teachers.
According to Buddhist Affairs Commissioner General Chandraprema
Gamage, Dhamma school attendance has increased from 67 to 70 percent.
This is a good trend. A large number of people now know the importance
of following the Buddha's teachings.
Attitudes, knowledge and skills are the fundamental targets of
education. Dhamma School is the main centre to promote such features in
Buddhist education would not exist anymore if the Dhamma School did
not flourish. It is the duty of every Buddhist to pay gratitude to
Dhamma schools for having revived the Buddhist education.