Guidelines for righteous living
The crux of the Buddha's teaching is embodied in His first sermon,
delivered to the Panchavaggiya Bhikkhus – the monks, Kondanna, Vappa,
Bhaddiya, Mahanama and Assaji at Benares, Isipatana Migadaya.
Avam me sutam, ekan samayan Bhagava Bharansiyan viharati Isipatane
Migdaye tatra kho bhagava panchavaggiye Bhikkhu amantesi – Thus it has
been heard by me: Once upon a time the Buddha was sojourning in Baranasi
at Isipatana in the Deer Park. Then, indeed the Blessed One, addressed
the monks who belonged to the group of five (Panchavaggiye Bhikkhu).
This discourse, which consists of eighteen verses or stanzas can be
considered as the inauguration of the ‘Reign of Righteousness or
Dhammacakkapavatana Sutta, - setting in motion the wheel of
righteousness or Dhamma is the most important first sermon of the
Enlightened One, which explains the Middle Path (Madhyama Patipada) and
the Noble Eightfold Path (Ariyaastangika Magga) and the Four Noble
Truths (Chaturariya Sathya), which the Buddha understood and attained
complete wisdom – Buddhahood. This is undoubtedly the foundation of this
great noble philosophy and religion.
An in-depth study of the most sacred Piruvana Poth Vahanse which
consists of (30) thirty important Suttas is the Great Book of
Protections. It begins with Saranagamana, taking refuge in Buddha,
Dhamma and Sangha and concluding with Atanatiya Sutta in the
Chattuthabhanavara. Some of the most popular suttas are Mahamangala,
Ratana, Karaniya Metta, which were extracted from Kuddhaka Nikaya.
Dhajjaga, Dhammacakkapavattana Suttas are from the Samyutta Nikaya.
Buddhist philosophy is meant for ‘Pannatassa’ - the wise. The deep
philosophy embodied in Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta proves beyond doubt
the philosophy of Buddhism.
Ete te Bhikkave ubho anke, anupagamma majjima patipada, Thathagatha
Abhisambuddha chakkukarani – ganakarani – Upasamaya Abhinnaya,
sambhodahaya, Nibbanaya Samvatthi - Without treading on the two extremes
– Kamasukallikanu and Attakilamatanu yogas, the worldly enjoyment in
sensual pleasures and self mortification, you must follow the Middle
Path (Majjimapatipada), which leads to serenity, special knowledge,
highest enlightenment and the Bliss of Nibbana – deathlessness.
In the third stanza which begins thus ‘Katama ca sa Bhikkave majjima
patipada . . . Ayameva ‘Ariyo attangiko maggo’ seyyathidam: Sammaditthi
(Right Vision), Sammasankappa (Right Intention), Sammavaca (Right Word),
Sammakammanto (Right Occupation), Sammaajivo (Right Livelihood),
Sammavayamo (Right Effort), Sammasatti (Right Mindfulness), Sammasamadhi
(Right Concentration). This is the Middle Path, realized by the Buddha,
producing Insight (Chakkukarani), Special Knowledge (Nanakarani). This
leads to serenity and highest Enlightenment – Nibbana.
Today, Buddhism is practised by six billion throughout the globe. In
the wheel of Dhamma, the fourth stanza deals with the truth of suffering
– Jatipi Dukka – Birth is suffering, Jarapi Dhukko – Old age is
suffering, Vyadhpi Dukka – Illness is suffering, Maranampi Dukkito –
Death is suffering.
This is the truth of life. Nobody can escape these sufferings. It is
not only meant for Buddhists. Everyone born to this world have to go
through these sufferings.
Buddha is like a great physician. Just as a doctor diagnoses, various
illnesses, their cause, the antidotes, the substances that acts against
the effects of a poison or disease, Buddha remedies these illnesses. The
medicine used by the Blessed One are the Four Noble Truths (Chaturaya
Sathya), which indicates the range of suffering, the origin, the
cessation and the way which leads to the cessation.
Extinction of suffering
The Noble Truth of the arising of suffering should be abandoned . . .
this is the Noble Truth of the extinction of suffering should be
realized. This is the noble truth the path leading to the extinction of
suffering. These four truths are included in the Dhammacakkapavattana
Buddhism is a scientific religion and a philosophy. The great erudite
scholars, scientists, speak very high of Buddhism. As a great
philosopher and teacher, the ‘Mahapurisha’ adopted one of the most
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) US physicist who was born in Germany, who
devised the famous ‘Theories of Relativity’ stated, “if there is any
religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be
Buddhism.” Buddha's teachings deal with the nature of human existence in
all its dimensions – material, cultural, spiritual, etc. His entire
philosophy boils down Sabbapapassa akaranam – kusalassa upasampada –
Sacittapariyodapanam – etam Buddhana Sasanam (Dhammapada – 183)
To refrain from doing evil, to indulge in doing good, to cleanse
one's mind – this is the teaching of all Buddhas.
”Sabbapapassa akaranam’ – to refrain from doing evil, is a ‘golden
rule’ that everyone should follow. It is not only meant for Buddhists.
It's a common factor to all religions and human beings. Once Prof Rhys
Davis stated “Buddhist or no Buddhist, I have analysed, examined,
everything - specially essence of Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta - wheel of
Dhamma. No other religion and none of them have I found anything to
surpass, in beauty, comprehensiveness, the Noble Eightfold Path and Four
Noble Truths of Buddha. I am content to shape my life according to
Truth of suffering
The verses from 8-11 in the Dhammacakka Sutta, repeatedly states in
realizing the noble truth of suffering, with reference to the doctrine
unheard, until Buddha stated, “Chakkhum udapadi - nanam udapadi -panna
udapadi - vijja udapadi - aloko udapadi which mean eye - wisdom -
knowledge - light - arose. If you analyse these lines were repeated 12
(twelve) times in the Sutta. It proves a very valid point. Buddhism as a
philosophy, is meant for the wise.
It is one of the most democratic and thinking religion and philosophy
in the world. Dhammacakkpavattana sutta is a plan for living
righteously. The great Exalted One - Buddha never preached, His great
Dhamma, to win converts, but to enlighten listeners. It is a thinking
philosophy and a religion.
Buddhism is realistic. It takes a realistic view of life and world.
Buddha is a lover of mankind and all living beings. This is clearly
depicted in the wheel of Dhamma - Dhammachakkapavattana Sutta.
Buddhism wield only ‘one sword’ - the sword of wisdom. It do not harm
any living being. It recognizes - one enemy - ignorance.
Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta is a fine example to prove it. It is built on
a solid structure of kindness and compassion.
In the 13th verse or stanza it states, “Yato ca kho me Bhikkave imesu
catusu ariyasallasu evam tipirivattam dvadasakaram yathabhutam nandadass
- anam suvisuddham ahoshi.
(The release of my mind is not disturbed. This is my last birth.
There is no future becoming now.”)
According to the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta -the message of the
Blessed One was transmitted to many heavenly abodes - and other realms
Chatummahrajika, tavatismsa, paranimmija –- vasavatti,
Brahmaparisajja, Mahabrama, Brahmapurohita, appamanobha, abhasvard,
parittasubha, appamanasubha, subhakinhaka, vehappaala, aviha, suddassa,
suddassi, akanittaka -this symbolises the establishment of the noble
message of Buddha - the great light unlimited appeared in the world.
Today, there are six billion Buddhists in the world. The Buddha in
conclusion of Dhammachakka Sutta, uttered an exclamation of joy: “Indeed
my dear Kondanna has gained knowledge (annasi) indeed my dear Kondanna
has gained knowledge. On account of this reason Annakondanna became the
name of Venerable Kondanna.
Kondanna, a son of a wealthy Brahamin family was one of the seven
Brahamins who predicted that Prince Siddhartha, son of king Suddhodana,
will become the Enlightened One – Gautama Buddha. He was also the first
disciple of the Enlightened One.
The Great Book of Protection, known as the Maha Pirith Poth Vahanse,
is divided into sections called Bhanavaras – recital.
The first Bhanavara ends with Dhajjagha Paritta. The protection
through the top of a standard – literally means flag, the second one
with Isigili and the third with first part of Atanachya and the fourth
the second part of Atanchya.
Buddha was undoubtedly the great psychologist the world has ever
What is psychology?
It studies human mind and its functions and behaviour patterns. Mind
is the fore-runner of everything. One of the most important aspects of
the Buddha is the mind at mental states that ignites.
Buddhism first sermon, was Dhammacakka Pavattana Sutta. Buddha has
very clearly analysed the human mind as a great psychologist.
In our Sansaric journey, we all have travelled a long way, crossing
valleys, mountainous rockets. If you deeply study Dhammacakka Pavattana
Sutta, and live a kind pious, fruitful life according to the teachings
of Buddha, you will see the beautiful horizon below – the path you
should trek to attain the greatest bliss. Prepare your soul to reach the
further shore the Bliss of Nibbana.
Shared heritage and noble living
The greatest gift that India gave to Sri Lanka is the gift of the
Dhamma, the teaching of the Buddha. Who was responsible for this
important action? It was the great Emperor Dharmasoka, who ruled a vast
empire in Northern India about 300 years after the passing away of the
Buddha. He sent his only son and daughter to Sri Lanka to establish
Buddhism in our country.
Among the major religions of the world Buddhism has the closed link
with Hinduism. Both accept Samsara, the cycle of births and deaths. In
Buddhism the end of Samsara is by the realization of Nibhana on the
complete purification of the mind and seeing things as they truly are as
Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta or impermanence, unsatisfactoryness and the
absence of a permanent, unchanging, eternal self or soul.
In Hinduism the objective is also to purify the mind and eventually
merge with the Omnipotent and Creator God. In Buddhism one has to make
one’s own effort to realize the Buddhist goal of Nibbana. The Buddha’s
merely show the way.
Another commonality between these two religions is the law of Kamma,
the law of action and reaction. Both religions believe that wholesome
actions lead to happy experiences and unwholesome actions to unpleasant
Both religions also believe that in the course of the Samsaric
journey one could be born among different communities in future births
or even different planes of existing such as animal, spirit, heavenly
abodes and lower realms.
Buddhism flourished in South India in the fourth and fifth centuries.
Outstanding Buddhist commentator, Ven Buddhagosha, came from India.
According to Mahawansa, the chronicle of ancient Sri Lanka, he came from
North India. But of late some researchers claim that he was from South
India. Buddhagosha’s contribution to Buddhism was significant. The
Buddha delivered his discourses on the Dhamma to different audiences
selecting subjects taking into consideration their capabilities and
inclinations. Ven Buddhagosha codified these discourses and presented
them in a systematic and logical order under different subjects which
helped the students of the Dhamma. Many Buddhist practices in Sri Lanka
are based on his commentaries. For instance, in the breath meditation
one should concentrate on the sensation at the tip of the nose and in
metta meditation one should first extent goodwill to oneself and then
proceed to others.
Ven Dhammapala from South India wrote sub-commentaries on the
commentaries of the four main Nikayas (collection of Discourses),
namely, Digha, Majjhima, Anguttara and Samyutta. Ven Buddhadatta, also
from South India, wrote two books on the Vinaya, the discipline in
Buddhism, and a book on Abhidhamma, the higher teachings in Buddhism.
An important part of Buddhism is the art of noble living and the
means for its realization is the cultivation of Brahma vihara, which is
translated to English as sublime states or divine abodes.
Brahma-vihara consists of four states, namely, metta, loving kindness
or universal love, karuna, compassion, mudita, joy in the success of
others, and upekkha, equanimity or balance of mind. The practice of
these noble virtues tend to elevate man and make him divine in this life
These four outstanding qualities are extended to all living beings
without any distinction. They are all embracing, non exclusive,
impartial and not bound by selective preferences and prejudices.
Metta – Universal Love
The first factor metta, which is translated to English as loving
kindness or universal love, is the sincere and selfless wish for the
happiness and welfare of all living beings, without any discrimination.
When metta is taken as a subject of meditation it is referred to as
It is remarked in the Visuddhi Magga, the Path of Purification, the
great work of Ven Buddhagosha, the outstanding Buddhist commentator,
that at the beginning one should not direct thoughts of metta to others
but to oneself.
‘May I be happy and free from suffering
May I be free from hatred, oppression and anxiety’
Thereafter extend such thoughts to others.
‘Just as I love happiness and detest suffering and as I wish to live
and not to die, so it is with other living beings.’
Hatred, animosity and cruelty are detrimental to those who harbour
such emotions. When one is full of hatred or anger, the heart beats
rapidly and consequently both physical and mental energies are
dissipated. Even a handsome man looks ugly and repulsive when he is in a
mood of hatred. Mentally it colours one’s judgement and prevents the
distinction between right and wrong.
Metta is an antidote against hatred. When one develops a wish for the
happiness and welfare of all beings, hatred could not arise even towards
one who had been harmful. The practice of metta bhavana alone is not
sufficient. It should be adopted as a way of life, a way of conduct
towards one’s dealings with fellow living beings.
The Buddha was an embodiment of metta. On no occasion did the Buddha
reveal anger or hatred or say an unkind word. Those who opposed him were
not considered enemies. His concern was the welfare and happiness of all
living beings by guiding them to escape from the sufferings of samsara.
Karuna – Compasion
Karuna or compassion is the second factor in Brahma-vihara and it is
defined as the quality that makes the heart of a good man tremble and
quiver at the distress of others. It is the noble quality that rouses
tender feelings at the sufferings of others. Such feelings are in
opposition to cruelty and violence.
A man of compassion serves others. He attempts to relieve the
suffering of others with altruistic motives. He lives not so much for
himself but for the welfare of others and seeks opportunities to serve
others expecting nothing in return, not even gratitude. One who expects
gratitude for service rendered is open to grief if such gratitude is not
The Buddha was called the great compassionate one (Maha Karunika)
because he radiated infinite compassion towards all beings without
discrimination. Although the good and virtuous came in search of him,
the Buddha in his great compassion went in search of the poor, the
ignorant and the vicious.
Those who are materially rich should have compassion on the
materially poor, who lack most of the essentials of life.
However, the noble quality to help and assist those in distress and
need have to be cultivated. Many who are in a position to help the needy
do not do so because they are not inclined to devote time for thought
and action for that purpose.
On the other hand, the spiritually rich should have compassion on the
spiritually poor though many of them may be materially rich. It is said
in Buddhism that the vicious, the wicked and the ignorant deserve even
more compassion than those suffering from poverty since they are
mentally and spiritually sick.
We should also extend compassion to those who unreasonably harm us.
We are harmed since we have to settle accounts for unwholesome actions
for our past in accordance with the law of Kamma. With thoughts of ill
will towards those responsible we would accumulate further unwholesome
Muditha – Appreciative joy
Muditha which is defined as sympathetic or appreciative joy or
rejoicing in the joys of others or altruistic joy at the happiness,
fortune and success of others.
One should not extend mudita to those who may be successful and happy
but lead an unwholesome and an evil life. For a true Buddhist is aware
of the suffering that is in store for them under the natural law of
Kamma, the law of cause and effect.
What should be extended to such people is compassion for their future
suffering and the wish that they would change their ways soon for their
Muditha should be extended to those who are successful and happy
without resorting to evil ways. It may also be directed towards those
who may not deserve success on grounds of competence and application but
who are successful by fortuitous circumstances, considering that they
are reaping the results of past wholesome actions.
Mudita could also help the cultivation of karuna. It would ennoble
charitable work undertaken with compassion and prevent such activity
from degenerating into a patronizing and condescending exercise.
One could cultivate Mudita by thinking of the evils of its opposite
emotions of jealousy and envy. The begrudged success of others, hatred
for the gains of others, the odious comparisons of the fortunes of
others with one’s humble circumstances would lead to one’s own undoing
Muditha is an antidote to envy and jealousy, the evil emotions that
along with craving and greed are responsible for much suffering by
disturbing the mental and physical equilibrium of man.
An important benefit of mudita is that it would assist the
eradication of craving that is the main cause of all suffering and which
tie living beings to samsara, the cycle of births and deaths, with its
transient, unsatisfactory and insubstantial nature.
Upekkha – Equanimity
The fourth factor in Brahma–vihara, is upekkha a word in Pali. It is
even mindedness or mental equipoise. Most popularly it is called
equanimity or balance of mind. Upekkha rejects both attachment
(anurodha) and resentment (virodha).
It advocates a middle path of being neither attracted nor repelled by
the desirable and the undesirable or the pleasant and the unpleasant.
Most people are aware that our minds are attracted by the pleasant and
the beautiful and are repelled by the unpleasant and the ugly.
This understanding is inadequate. For equanimity one should realize
that such attractions and repulsions are the ways of the mind. Every
effort should be made to bring the mind under control and for this
purpose it would be helpful to consider the mind as something external
It would then be possible to view this phenomenon of attraction and
repulsion of the pleasant and the unpleasant with objectivity and
This would enable one to remain relatively calm and unmoved by the
ways of the world by being neither unduly attracted by the pleasant or
repelled by the unpleasant. This is the establishment of equanimity or
balance of mind.
Muditha would also relieve anxieties and worries in this world itself
since it trains the mind to maintain equanimity in the face of worldly
happenings. It is a healthy alternative to tranquillizing drugs to
relieve stress and anxiety. By disciplining the mind it would be
possible to achieve tranquillity without tranquillizers.
This serenity of mind is expressed in the following notable lines in
the Dhammapada, verse 81:
“Just as a compact, solid rock
Stands immobile in the hurricane,
Even so, amidst all praise and blame,
The truly wise are shaken not.”