Today is Navam Full Moon Poya Day
By Chandra Edirisuriya
It would do well to ponder further, on Mind and its States, as explained by the Buddha according to the scholarly work ‘The Buddha’s Explanation of the Universe’ by C.P. Ranasinghe, my teacher at my alma mater Ananda College, Colombo in the 1950s, to mark this year’s Navam Full Moon Poya Day.
Intercepting Defilements With Purity
The method of removing the defilements of hatred, greed, and ignorance is to intercept them with the charges of purity of benevolence, loving sympathy, and knowledge. Benevolence removes the defilements of greed; loving sympathy removes the defilements of hatred; and knowledge removes the defilements of ignorance. Greed and hatred are the by-products of ignorance, and benevolence and loving sympathy are the by-products of knowledge. The struggle between defilement and purity, therefore, culminates lastly into a struggle between ignorance and knowledge.
The tincture of the defilements of greed, hatred, and ignorance is so imbued with the forces in the evolution current of our mind, that it is very difficult to remove it completely. If there were appreciable accumulations of defilements in the evolution current of our mind, it is not difficult to separate and eliminate a portion of it, but when the proportion of defilement is very much reduced, the grip of defilement becomes very tight. The lower the proportion of the contents of forces of defilement in the evolution current of our mind, the firmer becomes its clasp, the reason being that forces of defilement in greatly reduced proportions serve only as agents to bind beings to material life.
Even under such circumstances, the only remedy for one who wishes to cleanse the mind completely of all deposits of defilement, is to apply more and more charges of concentrated knowledge, and by this means, the point can be reached when the binding force is so reduced that its grip is no longer strong enough to bind.
My university visiting lecturer in modern history in the early 1960s Ariyadasa Warnasuriya - the worthy father of his worthy son Prof. Narada Warnasuriya, country’s first Director General of Education, saying, during a lecture that Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the First Sermon of the Buddha and the Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were the two greatest discourses in the history of Mankind is becoming very relevant today because adhering to the Five Precepts and the collective ownership of the means of production and distribution only can solve the spiritual and temporal issues besetting Mankind today.
The fact that capitalism does not have solutions to the present predicament of Mankind is cogently put by General Secretary of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka Specialist Dr. G. Weerasinghe in the following terms: “The wealth of the one per cent rich in the world comprising 10 tycoons representing 70,000,000 people, which is twice that of the 99% consisting of the rest numbering 6,970,000,000, has gone up during the COVID-19 pandemic by USD 500 billion while 30% of the world’s population eke out a living earning only three dollars a day and 50% earning five dollars. The open economy introduced in 1978 at the time the Washington consensus was in force considered the private sector the engine of growth that would generate employment and in turn end poverty according to the trickle-down theory.” This unfortunately has not come to pass.
Four Noble Truths
Buddha delivered His First Discourse the Dhammachakkappavattana Sutta to the Five Ascetics Kondanna, Assaji, Bhaddiya, Vappa and Mahanama who had been His former companions. Whilst the doctrine was being expounded, there arose in the Venerable Kondanna, the dustless, stainless eye of Truth – ‘Whatsoever has arisen, all that must inevitably perish’. He attained the first stage of Sainthood and the other four attained Sothapaththi later.
When the Buddha expounded this Dhammachakka, the earth bound deities exclaimed: “This excellent Dhammachakka, which could not be expounded by any ascetics, priest, god, Mara, or Brahma in this world, was expounded by the Blessed One at the Deer Park in Isipathana near Benares”.
Hearing it the Devas of Chathurmaharajika, Thavathimsa, Yama, Thusitha, Nimmanarathi, Paranimmitha-vasavaththi; and the Brahmas of Brahma Parisajja, Brahma Purohitha, Maha Brahma, Pariththabha, Appamanabha, Abhassara, Pariththasubha, Appamanasubha, Subhakinha, Vehapphala, Aviha, Athappa, Sudassa, Sudassi, and Akanittha also raised the same joyous cry.
Thus at the very moment, at the very instant, this cry extended as far as the Brahma Realm. These ten thousand world systems quaked, tottered and trembled violently.
A radiant light, surpassing the effulgence of the Devas, appeared in the world.
Then the Blessed One said: “Friends, Kondanna has indeed understood. Friends, Kondanna has indeed understood.”
Therefore the Venerable Kondanna was named Annatha Kondanna.
Truth is that which is (Sachcha). It is an incontrovertible fact. According to Buddhism there are four such Truths – all associated with Man.
In the Rohithassa Suththa the Buddha states: “In this very one fathom long body, along with its perceptions and thoughts, I proclaim the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, and the Path leading to the cessation of the world.”
This interesting passage refers to the Four Noble Truths which the Buddha himself discovered: Whether Buddhas arise or not, they exist, and it is a Buddha that reveals them, to the ignorant world.
These truths are in Pali termed Ariya Sachcha because they were discovered by the greatest Ariya, that is, one who is far removed from passions or because they lead to the Ariyan state of passionlessness.
The first Truth deals with Dukkha, which, for need of a better English equivalent, is inappropriately rendered by Suffering. As a feeling Dukkha means that which is difficult to be endured (Du – difficult, Kha – to endure). Here Dukkha is used in the sense of contemptible (Du) emptiness (Kha). The world rests on suffering (Dukkhe loco patitthito – hence it is contemptible. It is devoid of any reality – hence it is empty and void.
Average men are only surface seers. An Ariyan sees things as they truly are.
To one who sees, there is no real happiness in this sorrowful world which deceives mankind with illusory pleasures. What we call happiness is merely the gratification of some desire. “No sooner is the desired thing gained than it begins to be scorned.” Insatiate are all desires.
All are subject to birth (jathi), and consequently to decay (jara), disease (vyadhi), and death (marana). No one is exempt from these four causes of suffering.
Impeded wish is also suffering. We do not wish to come in contact with persons or things we do not like, nor do we wish to be separated from persons or things we like most. But our wishes are not always fulfilled. What we least expect or what we least desire is often thrust on us. At times such unpleasant circumstances become so intolerable and painful that weak ignorant folk are compelled to put an end to their lives.
In brief, this body itself is a Cause of Suffering.
Buddhism rests on this pivot of suffering. But it does not follow that Buddhism is pessimism. It is neither totally pessimistic nor totally optimistic. On the contrary it teaches a truth that lies midway between them. Whilst emphasising the truth of suffering the Buddha suggests a means to get rid of this suffering and gain the Highest Happiness.
The cause of this Suffering is Craving, which is the second Noble Truth.
The Dhammapada states: “From craving springs grief, from craving springs fear. For him who is wholly free from craving, there is no grief, whence fear.”
Suffering exists as long as there is craving or attachment (Thanha).
There are three kinds of craving. The first is the grossest form of craving which is simple attachment to all sensual pleasures (Kamathanha). The second is attachment to pleasures connected with the view of Eternalism (Bhavatanha), the third is that which is connected with the view of Nihilism (Uccheda Ditthi).
It is this gross and subtle craving that lead to repeated births in Sansara and that which makes onecling to all forms of life.
This craving is so powerful a force that one has to summon eight equally powerful forces (Eightfold Path) to overpower this one single foe.
The grossest forms of craving are first weakened on attaining Sakadagami and are eradicated on attaining Anagami. The subtle forms of craving are eradicated only on attaining Arahantship.
The Third Noble Truth is the complete Cessation of Suffering which is Nibbana, the Bliss Supreme. It is achieved by the complete eradication of all forms of craving.
The Fourth Noble Truth is the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering which is the Noble Eightfold Path, the via media – the golden mean of the Buddha.
The first two are mundane (lokiya) and the second two are supra-mundane (lokoththara).
The first three deal with the philosophy of the Buddha’s Teaching, and the fourth with the practice in accordance with that philosophy.
Buddhism as such is neither an ordinary philosophy nor an ordinary ethical system. It is a moral and philosophical teaching founded on the bed-rock of facts that can be tested and verified by personal experience.
Strictly speaking Buddhism cannot be called a religion either, because it is not a system of faith and worship which emphasises the existence of a supernatural God. If by religion is meant a teaching (Agama) which distinguishes between right and wrong, and furnishes men with a guide to proper conduct, then it is a religion of religions.
The basic teaching of Buddhism is the Five Precepts which every layman can observe. The First Precept is abstaining from taking life. The most common way of taking life is the slaughtering of animals for their flesh and that of farm raised animals of today is so contaminated with hormones, antibiotics and germs caused by disease that the Coronavirus vaccine does not answer for those consuming chicken in addition to those taking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.