Spiritual expositions par excellence | Daily News


Spiritual expositions par excellence

Over the years, I have felt that some of the most resourceful and invaluable books on spiritual matters related to the human life, when issued free are either lost forever or made to be shelved in niches unremovable. Such a book is the 721-page voluminous book titled The Manuals of Buddhism(The Expositions of the Buddha Dhamma) by Agga Maha Panditha Ledi SayadawMaha Thera, published in 2004 by Mother Ayeyarwaddy Publishing House, Yongon, Myanmar.

I rediscovered this great work from my collection of Dhamma books. The work appears as a translation of the original collection of Dhamma articles selected in various places. The editors have taken special care to compile them in the best manner possible, enabling the reader to grasp the essence of Buddhist teachings as laid down in the Four Noble Truths and Noble EightfoldPath.

They are denoted by the term Dipani which means the light or illumination. The most Venerable Aggamaha Panditha Ledi Sayadaw Maha Thera (1846 – 1923) honoured as the most eminent and highly respected teacher of Tripitaka, the most gifted and an outstanding interpreter of Dhamma, a great pioneer of meditation etc. The work consists of eight long chapters that contain a host of interpretations, orthodox teachings, annexed with relevant anecdotes bearing direct relevance to express more meaning into the text.

Growing grain

In this direction, the explanations and commentaries are packed with illuminative creativity. This method of exposition could be deemed creative interoperations to orthodox teachings, enabling the reader to find more textual knowledge. The first chapter titled Vipassana Dipani or the exposition of insights is one good example that follows the technique.

To illustrate the concept of Sannavipallasa or the hallucination of perception, the Maha Thera lays down the following events. In the middle ofa great forest, a certain husbandmancultivates a piece of paddy land. While the cultivator was away, wild deer were in the habit of coming to the field and eating the young spikes of growing grain. So the cultivator put some straw together into the shape of a man and set it up in the middle of the field to frighten the deer away.

He tied the straws together with fibre into the resemblance of a body with head, hands and legs, and with white lime painting on a pot the lineament of s a human face, he set it on the top of the body. He also covered the artificial man with some old clothes such as a coat and so forth and put a bow and arrow into the hands. Now the deer came as usual to eat the young paddy but approaching it and catching sight of the artificial man, they took it for a real man. They were frightened and ran away:

Followed by this tale or anecdote, the reader comes to know the value of it in another doctrinal layer of exposition as the Maha Thera explains the large forest stands for the three worlds of Kama Loka, Rupa Loka, and Arupa Loka. The travellers are all those who inhabit these worlds. The right road is the right views and the misleading road is the wrong view. Furthermore, the right views spoken here are two kinds, namely those that pertain to the world and those pertaining to Enlightenment.

Course of life

Of these two, the former is meant to connote this right view that goes as all beings are the owners of their deeds and every deed, both moral and immoral, connected by oneself is one's property and follows one throughout the whole long course of life. This is named as Vipassana Dipani or the exposition of insight. The next chapter is titled The Patthanuddesa Dipani or the Buddhist Philosophy of relations. This, to the reader, brings further insight into the Buddhist view of the world, interpreting the aspectsof birth, the impermanence, the diseases or sickens and the concept of death. This is also interpreted as the cosmic law as related to the existence from birth to death. From here onwards, the interpretation of the Maha Thera leads to deeper insights titled Sammaditthi Dipani or the Manual of Right Views. The reader is given the basic aspect of the three kinds of wrong views:

1. Pubbekata ditthi

The view that all sensations enjoyed by beings in the present existence are caused and conditioned only by the volitional actions done by them in their past existences.

2. Issaranimmana Hetu ditthi

The view that all sensations in the present existence are created by a supreme being / or God.

3. Ahetu Apaccaya hetu ditthi

The view of the uncausedness and unconditionality of existence.

Followed by this brief explanation, the Maha Thera attempts to analyse each segment in a deeper but clearer expression taking each segment with examples. This includes the explanation in the concept of Kamma inclusive of interpretation to the aspects of the relations between past and present kamma and viriya or energy and nana or knowledge. From here the MahaThera proceeds to a deeper analysis of the concept of Samma ditthi Dipani or the manual of Right View triggering off for the four Noble truths to the Eight-fold Noble Path. In this context, quite a number of examples via various tales are given.

The queries related to the beliefs in hells and heavens too emerge. The queries relate to the various types of living beings who are seen and unseen too emerge. They consist of various names like Preta, Bhuta etc. Followed by these factors, Maha Thera takes into consideration the Bodhi Pakkhiya Dipani or the Manual of the factors leading to Enlightenment.

As the editors and the team of translator explain, the Maha Thera has attempted to explain quite a number of inner meanings denoted in the original Pali words and terms. The concepts of Sila, Samadhi and Pragna are explained with examples drawn from day to day life. The culmination of the Dipani is observed in the analytical interpretation of spiritual achievements via meditation.

This process is titled Magganga Dipani or the Manual of the Constituents of the Noble Path. The most outstanding quality of the work stands out as the step by step explanations into the inner teachings of the vision of Buddha Dhamma. All in all, this work stands out not merely as a manual but also as a deeper interpretation of the meaning of life or existence.


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