A profile on a man above divinity | Daily News


 

A profile on a man above divinity

Several years ago, perhaps in the mid-sixties, I happened to meet a scholarly Buddhist monk. He had come to meet a book publisher in Colombo. He was Venerable Pandita Ganegama Saranankara Thera who presented me a copy of his latest publication titled Budu Hamuduruwo (The Buddha).

On reading in the first instance, I felt so blissful to see that the pages are packed with short incidents in the life of the Buddha as recorded in the ancient sacred text in the Vinaya and Sutta Pitakas of the Tripitaka.

I had a copy of the book for a long time when I read from time to time. Strange enough, I had the opportunity of reading the same book recently available as a new print (Gunasena Publishers). This time, I had more time to spare to read and rediscover the intrinsic value of the publication of the learned Thera.

The book consists of 25 chapters embracing the essential factors that possessed the Buddha in his profile. The 25 chapters resemble mini-research projects that overshadow mere writing assignments.

Above divinity

The Buddha is not a god but a great human being as suggested by the title of the opening chapter. Here the scholarly monk attempts to show the great characteristics of the Buddha not as a divine personality but as a human being who had elevated from the common plane of being born as a prince who had left abandoned all the futile luxuries in search of a noble path where humanism mattered above divinity. Examples of humanism are drawn from text such as Dhammapada and Itivuttaka Pali.

Triggering off from the opening phase, the reader enters the next chapter titled Buddha as the Greatest Teacher.

Here the reader encounters several incidents of the Buddha's teachings to monks and laymen. The entire chapter is packed with a narrative form that underlines the basic elements in educational psychology as discovered by both oriental and occidental educationists around the world. One visualises that the Buddha had utilised a method of teaching for himself that had now come down the centuries as 'creative teaching' that envelopes similes, parables, anecdotes and dialogues.

The Buddha as a great pathfinder, social reformer and the pioneer peacemaker and democrat are factors enveloped in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth chapters. Here the reader gets closer to the profile of the Buddha, as a noble prophet who had helped the kings, rulers and heretics as well to change some of their firmly obsessed views on social changes. The factors as laid down by Venerable Saranankara Thera create the image of the Buddha as a great hero of mankind. This background of research material goes into the making of the image of the Buddha as a great pacifist cum visionary (Maha Karunika and Maha Ahimsavadi). As a great observer of social happenings, the Buddha had the opportunity of being a person who had elevated from the common kind and compared to a lotus in a muddy pond.

Making use of the most salient incidents in the life of the Buddha in the psychosomatic treatment given to the members of the Sasana as well as some of the members of the laity, the learned author underlines the noble methods as adhered by the Buddha as a psychotherapist and as a founder and pioneer of the subject. As such, the creation of the great image of the Buddha as a psychotherapist in chapter 19 transcends mere generalisations. The author is free-minded to the point that he does not attempt to compare the discoveries in the treatment process with the counterpart as one would find in common parlance.

Spiritual visions

Though possessed to certain extrasensory powers, the Buddha instead utilises soothing verbal powers as well as spiritual visions in the process of treating those who were seen and discarded as cruel, corrupt and evil. In this process, the Buddha is shown as the pioneering visionary of the function of the mind. 

Most material as laid down in the Chitta Vagga of the Dhammapada as well as in some suttas are renarrated in simple terms. The Buddha as the most skilful creator of fables, parables and the most fitting events are recorded in Chapter 15 titled Buddha as a storyteller par excellence. Here the reader may find that the author has left no stone unturned in the Buddhist narratology such as Jatakas, itivuttaka and various significant suttas in Anguttara Nikaya.

As cited in the preface to this book, the author mentions the sense of time as leisure that paved the way for the re-recording these areas of knowledge anticipating the fulfilment of a spiritual desire to see a better social order. As a reader, I felt that the book is one of the most fitting tributes to the present world, where one clamours for a better living condition devoid of warfare, bloodshed, grave sicknesses and suffering.

Perhaps reading a page day or a chapter a day may make one a better human being. As such, the compilation of short and long episodes in the life of the Buddha became a gift for all times.

As an overview of the profile of the Buddha, I recall what Venerable Dr K Sri Dhammananda studies in his booklet The Purpose of Life. These are his words:

Buddha was the perfect scientists in the study of life. The perfect psychologists, who analysed the nature of the mind to the extent that his teaching was acclaimed as a scientific method. Modern scientific discoveries never come into conflict with his teaching.

 


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