A BUDDHIST'S COMPANION
An Exposition & Selected Quotations
Agga Maha Pandita
Abhidhaja Aggamaha Saddhamma Jotika
Collected from lectures, articles & talks
given throughout his teaching life
to honour and celebrate his 100th year
May the merit of this deed be shared with
Robert E.W. Iggleden 19l3-l98l
One-time devoted pupil of Ashin Thittila
Edited and arranged by Claudine W. Iggleden
Published by Claudine W. Iggleden & Stanley S. Davidson
and other well-wishers
Set and printed by: CPC Reprographics Ltd., PORTSMOUTH, England
Abhidhaja Aggamaha Saddhammajotika
|Duty & Behaviour|
|Habits & Practice|
|Right Attention & Resolution|
|Loving-kindness & Compassion|
|Cause & Effect|
|Sickness & Old Age|
|Death & Rebirth|
|Absence of Greed|
|Absence of Hatred|
|Some Parting Advice|
By Claudine W. Iggleden
Born to Daw Htwe, wife of U Aye, on 10th July 1896 (Burmese Era 1258) U Thittila was a second son, having also an elder sister and younger half-sister, for his mother re-married after the death of her first husband.
They lived in the village of Padigon in the Pyawbwe District of central Burma, and at the time of U Thittila's birth the British had only been in occupation of Burma for ten years. As he says now, during those days the monastic life of the country was particularly strong and was a dominant influence in the everyday existence of the people, due to the entire education system being undertaken by the bhikkhus in the monasteries. As a result the people were constantly in contact with and influenced by those who observed certain precepts, especially not to kill any breathing being, however lowly in the animal kingdom; not to take anything not freely given; to abstain from unchastity; to refrain from lying, slander or harsh speech, and to abstain from any form of intoxicants or drugs. Every day the cooling, straightforward and reasonable teachings of the Buddha were included as part of the learning programme for children. Children and people alike looked up to and respected their teacher bhikkhus: many were highly revered and greatly loved.
So it was into this kind of context that U Thittila was born, and by the young age of seven years he was gradually spending more and more time at his local monastery. Even at that very early age a life of discipline was something that appealed to him; his respect and devotion to his teacher, the Ven. Sayadaw U Kavinda, was not something that he had to cultivate, and he was never deterred by the often testing tasks and class work set for him by his teacher, duties which often stretched him to the maximum. As U Thittila says today, "Too little in the way of work and tasks causes a pupil not to exercise his faculties and capacity to the full, although too much over-loading tends to be non-productive and destructive of confidence within oneself."
By the time he was only fifteen he had memorized faultlessly the primer to Abhidhamma studies, the nine chapters of Abhidhammatthasangaha, also the Mahasatipatthana Sutta as well as the whole of Kaccayana's Pali Grammar. At that point, as the youngest member of a group of four, he and three other samaneras were taken by the Ven. U Kavinda to live in the forest for about ten months for the practice of meditation. Later, after a period under another very strict sayadaw at a monastery in Toungoo he went on to the Masoyein Monastery in Mandalay where he came under another teacher, the Ven. Adiccavamsa, the toughest disciplinarian he says he has ever experienced throughout his entire life. During that period, although not in Mandalay, he became fully ordained as a bhikkhu at the age of twenty years.
Nearly eighty years ago now, at the age of twenty-two, he was selected from amongst an entry of five thousand candidates as the Pathamagyaw Scholar for all Burma. Five years later, from among one hundred and fifty candidates he was one of only four who passed the Mandalay Pariyattisaisanahita examination, the highest of all the monastic examinations, and for which he had to memorize a total of fifteen volumes of the Tipitaka to enable entry for the oral section alone. In those days the qualifications required to pass that examination were greater than those needed to obtain a pass today. Following his success he became a lecturer and head of the school at the monastery specially founded in Rangoon for his teacher, the Ven. Adiccavamsa, and himself.
It is over sixty years ago now, against a barrage of criticism for so doing, that he left Burma for India, where at the Santiniketan University he studied English and Sanskrit. While in India he did much to assist the revival of Buddhism in Southern India, among other things undertaking the management of the Buddhist Free Elementary School at Perambur. During his stay in India he was elected president of the South India Buddhist Associations, and an appreciation upon his departure recorded that no one since the founding of the society in 1903, "had evinced such selfless and untiring interest in the cause of the revival of Buddhism in South India."
He also journeyed to Ceylon, where he had hoped to be able to extend his knowledge of English, but due to an unfortunate spell of ill health he was unable to continue there. It was not until he eventually returned to India, where during that period he stayed at Adyar, that he finally had the opportunity to be directly associated with English people. From them he gained much help in improving his ability to speak English, and also learning of English customs and manners with which he had hitherto been unacquainted.
He had decided that he must apply himself to the task of learning the English language properly so that in time he might become able to spread a knowledge of the Buddha's Teaching to as many as possible, even "all over the world", the sometimes uttered phrase at the conclusion of religious meetings in Burma. And he has indeed achieved that aim, visiting, living, staying in countries situated in four out of the five continents of the world.
His longest stay in any one country was in England, where for fourteen consecutive years, including throughout the war years, he withstood unbelievable conditions for a bhikkhu. Only he himself will ever really know the sometimes severe privations and problematic situations to which, especially as a bhikkhu, he was subjected. However, he never weakened, and his unswerving determination and effort to make known and explain the doctrine of kamma and The Middle Path that leads to the ultimate goal of the cessation of all suffering, has taken him thousands and thousands of miles, far, far away from the small town of his birth, Padigon.
Fifty years ago the appearance of a bhikkhu in the West was a very rare thing, and for a pioneer member of the Sangha in those days even the basic matter of existence was hedged with almost insurmountable difficulties. Nowadays, of course, members of the Sangha no longer have the task of being pioneers, the yellow robe is an accepted sight, and there are usually supporters and even viharas in the different countries between which they commute, enabling travel worldwide in a way unthinkable half a century ago.
Although he arrived in England in 1938, the war years from 1939- 1945 were taken up with the matter of trying just to survive, especially the bombing where he was in London, assisting others around him at the same time in the best way that he could.
As a stranger in a foreign land under such circumstances, and in particular for a bhikkhu, his experiences were, to say the very least, most unenviable. Often being unavoidably associated with a somewhat mixed element of society, he was much teased, even referred to and addressed as, "Buddha", and called many other things besides; but, as Christians say, he always "turned the other cheek", and offered friendliness in return for abuse.
Thus it was not until the end of the war in Europe in 1945 that he eventually began to find a chance to fulfil his great wish to spread a knowledge of the Dhamma. Although gradually at first, he found a means of starting to teach, and those classes that he held went on to open up a new understanding of the Buddhist Teaching in the West. Apart from his busy schedule of regular classes several days every week, many held in the evenings to suit those who worked, he upon request also started to hold special classes for Abhidhamma studies, the very first time that it had ever been systematically taught in the West.
At that time his students were quite unaware that he was probably one of the most highly qualified teachers they could possibly have asked, for he never ever spoke of himself nor of his scholastic qualifications and achievements. Neither did he speak of the sometimes acute difficulties he had just to maintain himself, since in those days there was no vihara anywhere in England for a bhikkhu to reside. Even in 1949, when what was called the Sasana Kari Vihara was formed, it consisted of only two rooms on the first floor of a house near Victoria Station in London, and by 1952 even that was closed for financial reasons.
It was, therefore, at the not so young age of between forty and fifty years that he often had to face the sometimes bitter winter climate of the West; snow and ice accompanied by freezing winds. Because of the lack of proper support, especially prior to even the Sasana Kari Vihara days, he often suffered from living in extremely cold quarters, lack of proper warm clothing, and even sometimes barely sufficient food to sustain himself.
Only someone of his mental calibre, and immensely tough training and discipline, could under such circumstances have withstood the intense teaching programme which he so unstintingly undertook at the close of the war, holding classes for informal discussion groups, Abhidhamma, meditation, teaching the Pali language, setting and marking examination papers and giving public lectures, week after week, year after year. Not only in England did he spread a knowledge of the Dhamma most extensively, but upon invitation he journeyed to France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Norway and Sweden. His pioneering work for the Dhamma during his fourteen years in Europe, from 1938-1952, as a lone bhikkhu, sometimes in the most adverse of conditions, reveals something about the stature and nature of the pioneer who undertook that commitment.
He returned to Burma from England in 1952, and for the following eight years he lectured at the University of Rangoon, teaching Abhidhamma to M.A. and B.A. students, while using the breaks between courses to continue spreading the Dhamma abroad.
Of the Sayadaw's three visits to Australia the initial one took place in 1954, during which he gave many introductory talks and private interviews in both Sydney and Melbourne, that trip lasting for just over three weeks. The sight of the yellow robe in Australia in those days, as in Europe, was still a rare thing, and during the course of one journey there he was even asked by a passing stranger if he was some kind of magician.
During that short visit he answered countless questions and made a fifteen minute radio broadcast entitled, "An Introduction to Buddhism", also two radio recordings for subsequent transmission. He was invited by the Union of Jewish Students to give an address at the University of Sydney, the oldest university in Australia and New Zealand. The hall booked for that occasion proved to be too small when nearly three hundred students turned up, and the venue had to be hastily changed to a larger hall to accommodate all those present.
In 1956, continuing on from a month's lecture tour in Japan, where he had met and discussed with Zen masters and teachers the similarities and differences between the Theravada and Mahayana aims and methods of teaching meditation, he proceeded on directly to Australia once again. That visit also lasted for just over three weeks, and on that occasion he attended a special celebration to mark the 2,500th anniversary of the death of the Buddha.
In 1959 he received another challenge, he was invited by the Association of Asian Studies at the University of Michigan in the U.S.A. to undertake a six months' lecture tour. It was to take him to universities and colleges from New York on the east coast, to San Francisco in the west, and even right out to one of the Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific Ocean, some two thousand miles odd off the west coast of America, where he was requested to give twelve talks, of which ten were to be on the subject of Abhidhamma.
In all he kept something over one hundred and sixty engagements during one hundred and seventy-four days, travelling thousands of miles, criss-crossing the continent as his programme of lectures took him on a zig-zag course, sometimes returning to the same State at a later date but to a different venue.
In 1959, to students in the heart of America, the sight of the yellow robe, as in Europe and Australia, was still very unusual, and on one occasion while walking in the campus grounds of a university where he was going to speak, some students approached him and asked him who he was and what he was doing there. They were astonished when he said that he had come to teach them, and responded by saying that it was Westerners who teach Easterners, not vice versa; Easterners came to the West to learn, to get degrees, not to teach, so what was it he could teach them? His reply was to ask them if they knew how the mind works, how many doors of consciousness there are, how many functions are performed by consciousness, and so on. They said they had never heard of such a thing.
Wherever he went he consulted beforehand with the professors and teachers of the students to whom he was later going to speak. as to what they would like to know, to hear about in general or particular. He did this in order that he could the more appropriately say something beneficial and of interest that might register with them, and could perhaps provide grounds for further inquiry.
It is noteworthy that some students commented that the Buddhism he spoke of was entirely different from that which they normally heard from their teachers of comparative religion.
He said the Association's organization of the whole lecture tour was quite wonderful; he never missed any plane, train or bus throughout the entire six months, and was met and seen off unfailingly at every destination without any hitch in the long on-going arrangements.
It is obviously not possible here to do other than just mention his different shorter visits on the continent of Asia, not only to Japan, but to Singapore, Hongkong, Indonesia, Cambodia, Nepal and several times to nearer Thailand, but all were undertaken in that same spirit of dedication towards helping to maintain and spread the teaching of the Buddha
This same motive brought him again to England in 1964, when not only did he continue teaching but on that occasion also undertook the great work of translating into English, for the very first time, the second book of the Abhidhamma Pitaka, Vibhanga. It was published by the Pali Text Society under the title of The Book of Analysis, and is a lengthy volume comprising some five hundred and sixty odd pages.
This not inconsiderable literary achievement, requiring referral to a vast body of scriptural texts, proved something of a strain on his eyesight. Possibly his very many years of study at night by the light of a single candle during his youth, may have contributed to his rather weak visual definition in later years, for early on in life he needed to use spectacles.
In 1966, upon completion of this work he returned once more to Burma, having passed his seventieth birthday just prior to leaving England.
On three further occasions, yet again, he jorneyed back to England, in 1982, 1983 and 1985. Even in his late eighties he still gave some classes and talks, most of which dealt with the introductory stages of the Abhidhammatthasangaha. He celebrated his eighty-ninth birthday in England in July 1985, leaving for Burma at the end of the following month.
It was during one of his last visits to England that he gave a talk on the full-moon day of Asalha, July. when he spoke about the Buddha's first sermon the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, which was preached on the full-moon day of Asalha some 2,570 odd years ago to the five disciples in the Deer Park at Benares.
The Sayadaw stressed that although that sutta seems to be fairly short and simple, when it comes to actually knowing and understanding the real meaning of it, it is extremely difficult and can only be realized by "practising, hard practising, long practising; something very easy to speak about, but very difficult to do." He then told in his usual quiet and simple way a short story, reproduced here from notes. It is given as an example of how he would bring out the essence of something that contains a rather deeper significance than a single plain statement might at first imply.
"I once read when I was very young a story about a Chinese premier, a premier of many hundreds of years ago when the whole of China was ruled by emperors.
This prime minister was the most well known in his time, not only for his position as premier, but for his learning, being a poet, a great writer, orator; almost all qualifications were embodied in this particular person, and he was a very wise man. However, as a result, he became very conceited and proud of his attributes, his qualifications; so, just to justify his opinion about himself he asked his fellow ministers, 'Friends who is the most educated man, the most wise man in China, tell me?" All without hesitation replied, "You, sir; you are the most educated and wise man in China" He was so pleased and proud of himself that he ventured to ask a further question. "From your answers I now know that I am the most learned man, but tell me, who is the most loved, the most revered man in China?" Expecting to hear once again. "You, sir", he was instead greeted with silence; so he repeated his second question. His ministers, though, still remained silent, so he asked them a third time, adding, "why do you remain quiet, why is it you say nothing at all? Speak, friends, do not hesitate in your answer." At this the ministers felt bound to respond. and so they said, "Well, sir, because you force us to answer this question our reply is that the most beloved, most revered person in China is not you, sir." The prime minister was very displeased to hear that, and said rather crossly "Who else, then?" The ministers said that the most revered, most loved person was a very elderly monk living in a remote part as a forest dweller.
This time it was the prime minister who was silent, he was extremely put out at his ministers' reply. He began to consider what they had said; he wondered why people should so revere such a bhikkhu; bhikkhus, monks, knew only religion, were ignorant about the life of the world. He himself had had to try his best to become learned, the greatest lawyer, orator, poet; but monks, they did nothing, just sit and talk about religious things, about the future. He decided there and then that he must see this monk, there must be something about him that he should be so regarded as the greatest man in the case of love and reverence. So he inquired where the monk was staying. "He lives in a very remote area, he is very elderly and would be unable to come, it would not be possible to invite him", was the reply he received.
So, one day, together with his friends he went there. It was a very long way, with no proper road or pathway by which to travel, and when they arrived they found in the jungle that elderly thera, practising - what was he practising? Meditation.
Eventually, when the old thera observed the group of people, he was surprised to see them and asked if there was some reason for them to come. So one of the group introduced the premier to him, saying. "This is the wisest, most learned person, the premier of China who has come to see you." The thera then said. "What can I do for you?" "Sir", said the premier, "You are very well known, people love you. they revere you, so I have come to ask you a very short question. very short, because I am a very busy man." The old monk said quietly. "Well, you may ask."
"Venerable Sir, tell me, what is the most important thing in the world for a man or a woman to do? Please answer this question in the shortest possible way, if not in one word, then in one sentence, since I have no time to listen to a discourse. Bhikkhus have nothing to do, but I am so busy that I have no time to listen to a lengthy explanation." so the old monk recited a stanza:
Etam buddhana sasanam.
To refrain from all evil,
To do what is good,
To purify the mind,
This is the teaching of the Buddhas.
(Verse 183 in Dhammapada)
The Premier retorted, "Venerable Sir, I expected wonderful things from you, of you, but what you say is very elementary to a man like myself. even a child of three knows it."
To this remark the old thera quietly responded, "Well, well, a child of three may know it, but a man of seventy" - for that was the age of the premier at that time - "a man like you, may find it very, very difficult to practise." This time the premier made no rejoinder, so the old monk continued, "To know it literally is easy; to practise it is not easy. Do you find it easy not to do evil, not to do anything evil?" Then the premier had to admit that it was not easy not to do evil, especially for a premier who has to deal with many things. Sometimes they had to advise the emperor to surprise his opponents, his enemies, sometimes to kill them. Under the emperor's orders sometimes many lives might be destroyed, and so on. As for doing good, that also was not always easy either; and to purify the mind was the most difficult thing of all to do."
At the conclusion of the story the Sayadaw reiterated that although even this short stanza of four lines seems to be very easy to know, when it actually comes to realizing its true significance through practice, it is really very, very difficult, and requires a proper understanding of the Noble Eightfold Path, The Middle Path, about which he then went on to deal with step by step.
The Sayadaw was once asked to speak at a general Buddhist gathering where he was to be one of several others to address the audience. The other speakers, including lay speakers who were all also scholars, gave very lucid but somewhat academic short discourses. The Sayadaw, as always, gauging the audience beforehand, included on that occasion a brief and simple illustrative story, one of the Jataka Tales, to highlight the main theme in his talk. He spoke in a friendly, informal manner that arrested the attention of those listening. Subsequently a middle aged lady of that audience was heard to remark that it had been a most interesting afternoon, so many learned expositions: but it was the Sayadaw's simple story about which she commented the most.
His calm and gentle approach among strangers, and towards audiences, especially newcomers to Buddhism; his humility and his very quiet and simple way of speaking and teaching, has always been the hallmark of his contact with others. Never putting himself forward as master, scholar or orator, but just quietly working always to spread a knowledge of the Dhamma. has been his constant endeavour.
In these few short pages it is obviously only possible to give the very barest idea of some aspects of the Sayadaw's long and wonderful life, and consequently only possible to touch upon just a tiny portion of his one hundred years' experiences.
He has long held the position of ovadacariya to the State Sangha Mahanayaka Council, to the trustees of the Shwedagon Pagoda , Sule Pagoda, Kaba Aye Pagoda and many other well known pagodas in Rangoon. He was also, until of late, examiner for the long established Abhidhamma Propagation Society in Rangoon.
In acknowledgment of his great learning and very extensive work for the Dhamma, he has over the years been awarded the following titles by the government:
In Buddhism there are three aspects: pariyatti, patipatti, pativedha (learning, practice, realization). Such has been the code pursued by the Venerable Sayadaw U Thittila throughout his life. It has been his zealous adherence to that code that has enabled him to introduce to such countless thousands, so far and wide across the world, the healing teaching of the Buddha. Even now, he says he is still learning.
His contribution towards maintaining the Buddhist Teaching in the world for as long as possible must be one of the happiest and most outstanding causes for celebration in the marking of this, his centennial year.
As he reminds us:
"Like roads that fall into disuse, and thus disappear, so also the way pointed out by the Buddha will disappear if never trodden."
The name of the founder of what is known in the West as Buddhism, was Gotama, this being the name of the clan or family to which he belonged. The word 'Buddha' means 'awakened', or 'enlightened one', and is not a name but a title of honour bestowed upon the sage Gotama who attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree at Buddhagaya in India.
Gotama was born as the son of an Indian king on the border of modern Nepal six hundred and twenty-three years before Christ, and to mark the spot as the birthplace of the great teacher of mankind, and as a token of reverence for him, the Emperor Asoka in 239 B.C. erected a pillar bearing the inscription, 'Here was the Enlightened One born'. At the time of his birth the wise men of the kingdom said that the signs showed that he would become either a very great ruler or a very great religious teacher. His father, wanting him to be a very great ruler, kept his son's mind turned towards worldly things instead of the religious life, and tried to arrange that his son should never see anything of an unpleasant nature that might set him thinking seriously about the world and life. In his twenty-ninth year, however, while on his way to the royal park, Gotama for the first time saw an old man, a sick man and a dead man, and he learned that all men without exception were subject to birth, old age and death, and that all worldly pleasures were only a prelude to pain. It was when he saw a monk that he realized that in order to learn the way to overcome man's universal sorrow he must give up worldly pleasures, and accordingly he renounced his kingdom and became an ascetic.
Gotama wandered about the countryside as a seeker after truth and real peace, approaching many a distinguished teacher of his day, but nobody was competent to give him what he earnestly sought. He strenuously practised all forms of severe austerities, and made a superhuman effort for six long years until eventually his delicate body was reduced to almost a skeleton, but the more he tormented his body, the further away he was from his goal. Finally, having realized the utter futility of self-mortification, he decided to follow a different course, avoiding the two extremes of self-mortification and self-indulgence. The new path which he discovered was the Middle Way, the Eightfold Path, which subsequently became one of the salient characteristics of his teachings. By following this path his wisdom grew to its fullest power, and he discovered the Four Noble Truths, understood things as they truly are and finally attained full enlightenment.
As a man Prince Gotama, by his own will, effort, wisdom and love, attained Buddhahood, that highest possible state of perfection, and he revealed to mankind the only straight path that leads thereto. A special characteristic of Buddhism is that anybody may aspire even to the state of the Buddha himself if he makes the necessary exertion, it is a sort of evolutionary process and is achieved by' one's own effort.
The Buddha laid stress on human dignity, and taught the worth of the human being. A Buddha in the making is a Bodhisatta, and as a Bodhisatta through countless births he suffered all, sacrificed all, and fulfilled every perfection, so that on some distant day he might achieve this unique goal, the goal of winning - not only for himself, but for all beings - deliverance from the heavy burdens of birth, old age, disease and death. The Buddha himself tells us of his origin, and how it started with an inflexible, aspiring resolve; he tells us of the gradual perfection of the flux that made that aspiration, and how finally he won full enlightenment. In this way, instead of disheartening his followers and reserving that exalted state only for himself, the Buddha encouraged and induced them to follow his noble example.
The word of the Buddha is called Dhamma, which in the Sanskrit form becomes Dharma. It means truth, that which really is; it also means law, the law which exists in a man's own heart and mind. It is the principle of righteousness, therefore the Buddha appeals to man to be noble, pure and charitable, not in order to please any god, but in order to be true to the highest in himself.
Dhamma, this law of righteousness, exists not only in a man's heart and mind, but it exists in the universe also; all the universe is an embodiment or revelation of Dhamma. The laws of nature which modern science has discovered are revelations of Dhamma; if the moon rises and sets, it is because of Dhamma, for Dhamma is that law within the universe which makes matter act in the ways studied in physics, chemistry, zoology, botany and astronomy; Dhamma exists in the universe just as Dhamma exists in the heart and mind of man. If a man will live by Dhamma he will escape misery and come to Nibbana, the final release from suffering.
Thus Buddhism is not a religion in the sense in which that word is commonly understood, it is not a system of faith or worship, Buddhism begins as a search for truth. It does not begin with unfounded assumptions concerning any god or first cause, and it does not claim to present the whole truth of the absolute beginning and end of mankind's spiritual pilgrimage in the form of a divine revelation. The Buddha himself searched and discovered with direct insight the nature of the cosmos, the cause of its arising and of its passing away, and the real cause of suffering together with the way in which it could be brought to an end, for the sake of all living beings. Having done so. he proclaimed the principles on which he had conducted his research, so that all who wished to do so could follow his system and know the final truth them selves.
The Buddha taught men to rely upon themselves in order to achieve their own deliverance, and not to look to any external saviour. He never puts himself forward as a mediator between us and our final deliverance, but he can tell us what to do because he has done it himself and so knows the way; however, unless we ourselves act, the Buddha cannot take us to our goal. He can point out the way, he can tell us of its difficulties and of the beauties which we shall find as we tread the way, but he cannot tread it for us, we must tread the way ourselves.
The life process of the universe is governed by the natural law of cause and effect. The cause ever becomes the effect, and the effect becomes the cause, and so birth is followed by death, and death on the other hand is followed by birth; birth and death being two phases of the same life process. In this circle of cause and effect, or of birth and death, known in Buddhism as samsara, a first beginning is not discoverable; it is said, 'The origin of phenomena is not discoverable, and the beginning of beings obstructed by ignorance and ensnared by craving is not to be found.' (Samyutta Nikaya II).
According to Buddhism the universe evolved, but it did not evolve out of nothingness, it evolved out of the dispersed matter of a previous universe; and when this universe is dissolved, its dispersed matter, or its residual energy which is continuously renewing itself, will in time give rise to another universe in the same way. The process is therefore cyclic and continuous, and the universe itself is composed of millions of world systems such as that which we know as our own solar system, each with its various planes of existence.
What of the soul? That which we call 'man' is composed of mind and matter. According to Buddhism, apart from mind and matter (nama and rupa) which constitute the so-called man, there is no such thing as an immortal soul,atta, which lies behind them. Matter (rupa) is the visible form of invisible qualities and forces, and there are altogether twenty-eight types of material qualities which constitute the physical body of an animate being. Mind (nama) is the most important part of a being, and consists of the four mental aggregates, namely:
Thus the combination of the five aggregates, or of the material and mental forces, is called a being which may assume as many names as its types, shapes, forms and so on may vary, according to the mode of physical and mental changes. Man is, therefore, a moral being of good and evil tendencies, of qualities and forces. who has unlimited powers physically. mentally and morally; and in the heart of every human being there is a spark of wisdom, but in ordinary mortals it is dormant or crippled by its unenlightened intercourse with selfish desire, hatred and ignorance. As a Buddhist the purpose of a man's life should be to grow from small to great. from less to more, from ignorance to enlightenment and from imperfection to perfection. Man is the architect of his own fate, and he will reap what he sow
Thus the material and mental forces combine and re-combine with no underlying substance or soul to make them permanent, and this process of becoming, the wheel of life, continues indefinitely until its main cause, craving or selfish desire for existence, is totally annihilated. It is this desire which sets the wheel of life in motion, and it is manifested in action which is in reality volition or will-power. It is called 'kamma' in Pali, but karma' in Sanskrit, and it is this kamma, this volitional action which is responsible for the creation of being..
Kamma means all kinds of intentional actions, whether mental, verbal or physical; that is. all thoughts, words and deeds. Every action produces an effect; it is cause first and effect afterwards. We therefore may say that kamma is 'the law of cause and effect', and that man is the master of his own destiny, child of his past and parent of his future.Kamma, however, is not determinism, nor is it an excuse for fatalism; the past influences the present but does not dominate it. The past is the background against which life goes on from moment to moment, and the past together with the present influences the future; but one should remember that only the present moment exists, and the responsibility for using the present moment for good or ill lies with each individual. Man has a certain amount of free will and can therefore modify his actions and affect his future, so if a man does a good deed or utters a good word or thinks a good thought, the effect upon him will be to increase the tendencies towards goodness in him. The practice of good kamma. when fully developed, will enable man to overcome evil and thus bring him to his goal Nibbana.
At the root of man's trouble is his primal state of ignorance, and from ignorance comes desire which sets the kammic force in motion. The Buddhist ascends to Nibbana through the Middle Way. the path of wisdom, morality and mind-control, or meditation; he ascends through the cycle of rebirths. and perfects himself by conquering his cravings through wisdom and love. The attainment of the perfect type involves the utmost development of all the faculties of man by the persistent effort of one's own reasoning, understanding and right living.
Buddhism teaches that with the practice of meditation and mind culture one can acquire the five supernormal powers, i.e.. celestial eye, celestial ear, memory of past births, reading the thoughts of others and various psychic powers. Not only this, but Buddhism also teaches that with the attainment of Nibbana in this life itself, through enlightenment and wisdom, one can reach the end of this chain of rebirths
Nibbana is not annihilation, neither is it a kind of nothingness, it is the state free from any possibility of the re-arising of conditioned existence, the ultimate peace and happiness. In the Buddhist scriptures it is always described in positive terms such as the highest refuge, safety, emancipation, peace and so on.
Buddhism consists of three aspects: doctrinal, practical and realizable. The doctrinal aspect is preserved in the scriptures called Tipitaka, or Three Baskets, the canon which contains the words of the Buddha, and which has been estimated by English translators to be eleven times the size of the Christian Bible.
All the teachings of the Buddha can be summed up in one verse:
This verse embodies the three stages on the grand highway that leads to enlightenment, the three stages of morality, concentration and wisdom. Morality regulates word and deed, concentration controls the mind, but it is wisdom, the final stage, that enables the spiritual man to annihilate completely the passions which are ever creating a turmoil within him.
Soon after the attainment of enlightenment the Buddha founded the Order of monks (Sangha) containing both the community of those noble disciples who have reached the ariyan noble stages, of which the last is perfect sainthood (arahat). and also the community of Buddhist monks who are striving to reach the ariyan noble stages. The Order of monks increased, and within the forty- five years of the Buddha's ministry it had spread throughout India and beyond, and the gospel of liberation became known to all whose eyes were but lightly covered with dust.' A similar order was established by the Buddha for nuns, with all the same rules and such additional ones as were required for women. The Buddhist Sangha, which historically is the earliest monastic institution to be governed by perfectly democratic principles, continues to the present day.
On the seventh day after the Buddha had passed away Maha Kassapa, who was head of the Sangha, decided to hold a convocation to establish the authoritative teachings of the Buddha. They then held a great council at Rajagaha under the patronage of King Ajatasattu, and the Buddhist canon was collected and recited in chants.
During the first century after the demise of the Buddha, there was only one schism among Buddhists, but at the end of the first century during the reign of King Kalasoka a community of monks attempted to introduce ten new indulgences into the discipline of the Sangha, pronouncing them to be allowable to the Sangha. To suppress this heresy, and for the purpose of securing the permanency of the doctrines of the Buddha, seven hundred leading arahats having Revata for their chief, protected by King Kalasoka, held the second great council at Vesali in precisely the same manner as the previous one.
The third great council was held in the third century after the Buddha, under the patronage of the Emperor Asoka. On the advice of Moggaliputta Tissa, who headed the third great council, Emperor Asoka sent messengers of the Dhamma to the various foreign countries known at that time.
The fourth great council was held in Ceylon early in the sixth century after the Buddha, headed by Maha Agga and supported by King Vattagamini. At that council the Tipitaka, which had been transmitted in Pali by memory from the time of the Buddha, was committed to writing for the first time.
The fifth great council was held in Mandalay, Burma. early in the twenty-fifth century after the Buddha, headed by Jagara Thera with the support of King Mindon. At that time the whole Tipitaka was inscribed on seven hundred and twenty-nine marble slabs placed at the foot of Mandalay Hill.
The sixth great council was held in Rangoon, Burma, commencing at the full moon of May, 2498 years after the demise of the Buddha, and ending on the 2500th anniversary (May 1956). At that council the Tipitaka was recited in Pali, and steps were taken toward translating it into some more modern languages.
In modern times there are mainly two schools of Buddhism, i.e., Theravada. which is practised chiefly in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos; andMahayana, which is practised in China, Tibet and Japan.
Theravada, the Way of the Elders, was the original and only tradition from the earliest times to the time of the second great council when the Mahasangika school, a precursor of Mahayana, was formed. Sarvastivada then arose as the second major school which differed from Theravada, although in only minor details at first, after which it divided into several sub-sects, many of which eventually developed intoMahayana.
The main differences between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism are the concepts in regard to the Buddha himself, as well as in regard to the Bodhisatta ideal, the canon of scriptures, the development of doctrine, the celibacy of the monks and the form of ceremony.
The similarities between the two schools of Buddhism are: the Four Noble Truths, which relates human suffering to the attachment of what is only transient and impermanent; the anatta (non-ego) doctrine and the doctrine of the chain of causation, although variously interpreted; the Noble Eightfold Path, as the way of deliverance which involves a moral discipline as well as the practice of meditation; the virtue of metta, loving-kindness, as being fundamental; the acceptance of the Buddhist Teaching as being universal in its application; and the Middle Way of life to the goal of Nibbana, the highest of all happiness.