PERFORMANCE FOR THE PERPETUATION AND PROPAGATION OF SASANA
( From "the Teachings of the Buddha", Basic Level, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Myanmar, 1997)
There are some other duties 'which should be carried out by every pious Buddhists whenever possible.
Lecturing, rewriting and teaching the Buddha's discourses are important missionary works. Performing missionary works means encouraging others to follow the Buddha's Teachings which can be summed up as: "to refrain from all evils, to do what is good, and to purify the mind."
First of all, a missioner must cultivate loving-kindness in the hearts of all beings and convey them how to dispel their wrong views which can bring evil consequences. Among the demeritorious action, the five heinous deeds of killing one's mother, killing one's father. killing an arahat, causing blood to settle on the body of the Buddha, and causing schism in the Samgha Order are the worst. Even though the perpetrator of these deeds has done a great deal of meritorious deeds, they cannot help him. He will be cast into hell (the Niraya) immediately on his death. Only when he is released from the Niraya, his meritorious deeds of the past existence will bear him good fruits.
A person, who has held a wrong view, earns greater demerit than a person who has killed his parents. If a person who has committed one of the five heinous deed, were to fall to the Niraya when the world is about to be destroyed. He has the opportunity to be released from there at the time of the destruction of the world. But the staunch wrong-viewer has to be shuffled to the Niraya of another world which remains undestroyed if the time for his release is not yet due at the time of the dissolution of the world.
The missionary work can salvage one from such grave offence. Therefore, it should be considered how noble and beneficial the missionary work is. Everyone should participate in the missionary work and strive for the proliferation of the Truth.
In doing so, one should cultivate loving-kindness on all wrong believers. Imparting the Buddha's Doctrine to others is one of the missionary works. The Buddha expounded that there is no other deed as meritorious as imparting the Buddha's Doctrine.
Every body has a chance to take part in the missionary work. We must try our best to make those who have not yet believed in the Buddha's Teaching come to believe in the Teaching and those who have already believed in the Buddha's Teaching come to believe all the more. If it is possible, we should go to the border areas of our country where the Buddha's Teachings have not well developed. If we ourselves are unable to do so, we ought to give support to the persons who are serving for that purpose.
Making Others Take Refuge in the Three Gems
'Saranagamana' means taking refuge in the three Gems: the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha. Each and every Buddhist must take refuge in the three Gems out of conviction.
How must we believe in the Three Gems? We must believe that one can liberate oneself from four miserable existences as well as from the round of rebirths by taking refuge in the Buddha
We must believe that the Dhamma can make all beings prosperous and liberate them from four miserable existences and the round of rebirths. So also we must believe that the Samgha can expound such Dhamma. Through these beliefs, we may come to know that the Three Gems are worthy of special veneration.
A person, who realizes the attributes of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha and has unshakable faith in them, can certainly be free from the four miserable realms in his next existences.
In the Buddha's time, there was a man of Sakyan clan named Saranani who had taken refuge in the Three Gems for a long time. Once the Buddha spoke in praise of him: "Saranani Sakya has taken refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha for a long time. How can he be reborn in the miserable realms?"
A person, who has unshakable faith in the Three Gems, and endowed with quick wit, ready wit and the knowledge of freedom from defilements, can attain arahatship in this very life. He is also free from the four miserable realms. Although a person, who has unshakable faith in the three Gems and endowed with quick wit and ready wit, has not emancipated from defilements, he can be reborn in the Brahma realm if he has completely uprooted the lower five fetters. And he will become a Non-Returner (Anagami) and will attain parinibbana in the Brahma realm.
Moreover, if a person who has unshakable faith in the three Gems, but not endowed with quick wit, ready wit and the knowledge of freedom from defilements, can be a Once-Returner or a Stream-winner.
Even though a person has neither unshakable faith in the Three Gems, nor quick wit nor ready wit nor the knowledge of freedom from defilements, but if he possessed the Faculty of Conviction, believes in the Buddha and appreciates him, he can also be free from the four miserable realms. (Pathama Sarananisakka Sutta, Saranani—vagga, Sotapatti Samyutta, Maha-vagga Samyutta).
The statement "one can be liberated from four miserable existences merely by the belief in the Buddha" is very encouraging indeed. It is very clear that a Buddhist who takes refuge in the Three Gems cannot be cast into the four miserable realms. Therefore, in Bahukara Sutta, the Buddha said that the person leading others who have no faith in the Three Gems to take refuge in the Triple Gems (to be Buddhists) is the incomparable benefactor.
Participating in Religious Associations
The strength of an association is greater than that of an individual. Performing religious and social affairs by a well-organized group can bring more success than by an individual.
Among the many different associations, the task of religious associations is subtle and profound. Therefore the members of these associations should have respectable physical, verbal and mental behaviours. Finding other's faults easily, saying words of blame on others, being I narrow-minded and impatient are not the proper behaviours of the members of religious associations. They should cultivate loving-kindness, compassion and good-will towards others. More over, even though the others treat them wickedly and dishonestly, they should stand righteously. Only then they are able to carry out their activities more effectively.
In the Buddha's time, the people of Savatthi used to make joint offerings to the Buddha. The Buddha said that the joint offering was very beneficial. A man, after hearing the discourse on charity, wanted to offer alms- food together with others to the Buddha and his disciples. So he invited the Buddha and his disciples to take alms-food on the next day. Then he went from house to house asking the residents to share alms-giving and to donate rice, oil, bean, etc., according to their wishes. When he reached a rich man's house, that rich man was annoyed by his request. The rich man thought why he was asking others instead of donating as much as he could. Then the rich man asked the man to bring his bowl and gave rice and beans only as much as could be taken by three fingers. He also gave very little amounts of butter and molasses.
The promoter of charity took the rich men's offerings without mixing them with others'. When the rich man saw that, he sent one of his servants to watch him.
At the cooking place, the promoter of charity put a little rice given by the rich man into various pots of alms-food, gruel and desserts so that the rich man may gain much merit. In the same way beans, butter and molasses were also put in all eatables. The servant reported what he had seen.
The rich man did not understand the man's intention. The next day with a knife concealed on his body he went to the place where the Buddha and his disciples were taking alms-food offered by the people. He intended to kill the man if he were disgraced in public.
After offering the food, the promoter of charity said to the Buddha thus: "Venerable Sir, this offering is a joint offering of all. In this joint offering some have given much and some have given little according to their own ability. May they all gain equal merit".
When the rich man heard those words, he realized that he was mistaken. So he pondered that if he did not confess his guilt, his head would be struck by thunder. He fell at the promoter's feet and begged for pardon. On seeing that, the Buddha enquired about the matter. So the promoter of charity explained the event in detail. The Buddha told the rich man not to think lightly of a good deed how ever small it may be. Then the Buddha gave a discourse on charity. At the end of the discourse the rich man attained Sotapatti Fruition. It is a good example of joint offering.
Supporting the Learners of the Buddhist Literature
Laying down the foundations firmly is the basic need to build a great grand building. The long endurance of that building depends on its foundations. In the great grand building of the Buddha Sasana, the Pali Texts are the basic foundations.
The genuine Pali Texts of the Buddha's Teachings have already existed in Myanmar. But to maintain these Teachings, there must be teachers and learners of the Buddha's Doctrine. Therefore, it is essential to support them sufficiently with four material requisites such as robes and alms-food so that they may study the Buddha's Teachings without any worry. Lay devotees should support them with keen volition and conviction.
It is difficult for the lay devotees to learn these teachings extensively because they are faced daily with many difficulties in their social affairs. They have to follow the instructions given by the bhikkhus. So long as the laity support the bhikkhus with material requisites, the bhikkhus will in return teach the Dhamma to the laity, as the Myanmar saying goes: "The island and the reed growing on it are interdependent". Teaching and learning the Buddhist literature are of great basic importance for the perpetuation of the Sasana. Only when one understands the Buddha's Teachings correctly, one can practise the Dhamma and realize the four Noble Truths.
If one observes at the culture, customs and tradition of a nation or a country, it is seen that they are under the influence of their respective religions.
The Myanmar culture, language, literature and tradition have the Buddha's Teachings as their base. They will fade out when the Buddhist doctrines fade out. Knowing this fact, the successive governments have been holding the dhammacariya examinations, the pathamapyan examinations and the likes. Moreover, the bhikkhus and the nuns who passed these examinations have been awarded worthily by the government and the people. In addition, the examinations of Tipitakadhara and the five Nikayas, the Visuddhimagga and the Abhidhamma examinations for laity, and the basic examination of Buddhist culture for children have been held annually.
In some townships, there are various voluntary organizations, led by far-sighted wise men, which hold the examinations such as Cetiyangana, Sakyasiha, Vinayadhika and so on.
At present the government is conferring various titles and donating the four requisites to the Teachers of the Buddhist literature and the meditation teachers. In the same way, the voluntary associations such as the Young Men Buddhist Association and Mangalabyuha Association hold examinations on Auspiciousness and the Chronicle of the Buddha for the youth annually, and give prizes and scholarships to outstanding students.
As the Buddha's teachings can enlarge the human knowledge and promote human culture, everyone should give full support to the teaching and learning of the Buddhist Literature.
Supporting Those Who Are Practising The Dhamma
It is the practical application of the Buddha's Teachings that every layman and bhikkhu must depend on for their liberation from miseries. That practice is also known as the Threefold Training, namely Morality (Sila), Concentration (Samadhi) and Wisdom (Panna). The basic requirement of the practice is the learning of the Buddha's Teachings and its result is the attainment of Magga, Phala and Nibbana. One can attain Magga, Phala and Nibbana only by practising according to the Buddha's Teachings. Those who have fully pratised according to the Buddha's Teachings should urge and teach others so that they also undertake the practice. So long as they are doing so, the practical application of the Buddha's Teachings will never fade away and the world will never be devoid of Noble Persons. The Buddha's Teachings will also perpetuate and flourish for ever.
When everyone follows the Buddha's Teachings, some of them will attain Magga, Phala and Nibbana, and some will be able to reduce the defilements such as greed, anger and ignorance in their daily social affairs. And also the four factors of the Sublime States, namely, loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, will be promoted. When the Four Sublime States are developed, the people will become mild and gentle in their physical and mental behaviour. When the people are devoid of greed and anger, there will be no theft nor robbery nor persecution. And the whole world will be overwhelmed by peace. It is the peaceful country that everyone aspires.
The Government of the Union of Myanmar is upholding the country to be a peaceful one by the practical application of the Buddha's Teachings. Therefore, it is necessary to support those who are practising the Dhamma and those who are urging and teaching others to understand the practice.
Promotion and Propagation of the Buddhist Literature
Throughout the 45 years of his missionary period, the Buddha, who possessed the omniscient knowledge, gave discourses conducive to mundane and supramundane benefits.
The Arahats, such as Venerable Mahakassapa and Venerable Ananda, held the Great Buddhist Councils successively in order to maintain those discourses and perpetuate the Buddha's Teachings for more than five thousand years.
The successive elder bhikkhus and the pious rulers have been striving for the purification and perpetuation of the Buddha's Teaching with great conviction and diligence.
Moreover, the elder bhikkhus have translated the Pali texts into native languages and have written books on Buddhist Literature such as commentary and sub-commentary aiming at the quick and accurate understanding of the discourses in the Pali Texts. Modem learned writers have also written many books in various aspects so that ordinary laymen can understand the Buddha's Teachings. With the help of these books every one can know how to practise the Doctrine easily and can attain Magga, Phala and Nibbana.
The main resources for the promotion and propagation of the Buddhist Literature are the lecturers, the teachers, the writers and the compilers who have thorough knowledge of the Dhamma. The Buddhist Literature will well spread and the Buddha's Teachings will flourish so long as these learned persons are in existence lecturing and teaching the Dhamma and writing and compiling books on Dhamma.
Religious Activities At Home
Among the various activities for the promotion and propagation of Sasana, the religious activities at home play an important role. A family is composed of parents and their children. The heads of a family are the parents and they are also responsible for the welfare of the whole family. They are also responsible for implementing religious activities within the family successfully. Therefore, the saying goes: "The meanness of the children falls on the heads of their parents". In Singalovada Sutta, the Buddha mentioned the five duties of parents thus: "The parents should restrain their children from doing evils; they should encourage their children to do good; they should provide their children with education and professional training; they should provide their children with investment to start a business, and they should arrange suitable marriages for their children."
Since the time of conception the parents prepare everything well for their coming child. Being Buddhists, they recite the discourses of protection to protect their child from any danger or enmity. They also take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha for the welfare of their offspring. This practice has fully taken place since the Buddha's time. The mother of Bodhi Prince took refuge in the Three Gems not only for herself but also for her son conceived in her womb.
It is the good tradition to all Buddhists to introduce one's children to Buddhism as early as possible as the start of family religious activities. During the conception the mother usually takes refuge in the Three Gems and observes the five precepts in order to ward off any danger from the child by the virtues of her meritorious deeds. At the time of the delivery of the child, Angulimala Sutta is usually recited in order to give birth easily. When the woman in labour hears the Sutta, she remembers the virtues of the Three Gems. So she gets relief from the pain and the child can also be blessed with the good virtues of the Triple Gems.
When the naming ceremony is held, the parents invite the bhikkhus to donate offertories. They take refuge in the Three Gems and they listen to the discourses of protection re cited by the bhikkhus for the benefit of the child. When the child grows old enough to speak, they teach him to recite "Buddham saranam gacchami" and so on, They give him the invaluable inheritance of Buddhism. When the child is clever enough to understand things to a certain extent, the parents, while embracing him, start teaching him the habit of paying homage to the Three Gems. They teach him to hold his palms together on his forehead and teach him to say: "I pay homage to the Buddha'. This is the first physical conduct of a Buddhist. Parents are the first teachers of their children. Their teachings are strongly impressed on their children's memory. Good parents produce good children. Pure lineage. good characters and religious and cultural traditions of the parents are valuable inheritance to their children.
King Kakavanna Tissa. the ruler of Lankadipa. made his two son (Gamani and Tissa) take a vow before meal at the ceremony of feeding the first meal of them not to take any meal without offering of the Three Gems. In this way he made the teachings of the Buddha rooted in their hearts. Wise parents establish the spirit of Buddhism in the hearts of their children.
Then they make their children pay obeisance to the Buddha at least twice a day: once in the morning and once in the evening. They also teach them words of prayers and train them to pay obeisance to the five objects of infinite gratitude before going to bed and after getting up from bed. At bed time, they tell their children jatakas and stories on Buddhist culture. When the children ask inquisitive questions, they give answers which the children can remember for ever.
The parents teach their children how to offer almsfood to the bhikkhus every morning. They also teach them how to offer food, water, flowers and lights to the Buddha. In this way the religious activities in the family get more and more developed. When the children grow older, the parents teach them not to do evils, explaining the disadvantages of the evils. And they encourage their children to do good, explaining the benefits of the good.
When the children are old enough to learn, they are sent to the monastery to learn writing, reading and arithmetic, and also to learn Buddhist literature such as Mangala Sutta, Singalovada Sutta and Lokaniti. In this way, there is a progress of religious activities in the family owing to the piety, the devotion and the wise guidance of the parents.
Buddhism and Myanmar are inseparable and they are joined together permanently. The Buddha's Teachings are the invaluable guidance for the Myanmar cultural traditions. Because this invaluable guidance Myanmar has been a well civilized country in the world for thousands of years. The nationality and the religious fervour are also well safeguarded.
The more successful the family religions activities, the more perpetual and the more developed the Buddha's Teaching. Therefore every Buddhist must try his best for success of the family religious activities which is the foundation for the perpetuation, promotion and propagation of the Buddha Sasana.
Religious Activities in the Community
Performing religious activities in the community is one form of the important tasks for the perpetuation and propagation of Sasana. Wards and villages are made up of families. Groups of wards and villages form towns, districts, divisions, states and country. Thus, if the Buddha's Teachings can be established in each family and community, the Sasana will flourish in the whole country.
When we follow the Buddha's Teachings, we shall gain happiness and success not only in the present life but also in the next existences. Moreover, in our final existence, we shall attain the ultimate peace of Nibbana. It is very precious to be a Buddhist. To be able to enjoy such a precious life, ignorant persons and wrong viewers should be converted into wise persons and right viewers. In doing so, organizations should be formed in villages and townships and lectures and discussions should be held extensively. According to the Buddha's advice, one should not only perform meritorious deeds but also urge others to do so. Four types of persons are mentioned in the Buddhist literature as follows:
(1) A person who himself does meritorious deeds but does not urge others to do so;
(2) A person who urges others to do meritorious deeds but he himself does not do so:
(3) A person who does not himself do meritorious deeds nor urges others to do so;
(4) A person who himself does meritorious deeds and urges others to do so.
Their different attitudes and activities bring different benefits to them. When they reap the benefits of their meritorious deeds in future existences:
- The first person enjoys great wealth but lacks in companionship;
- The second person enjoys companionship but lacks in wealth;
- The third person enjoys neither wealth nor companionship;
- The fourth person enjoys both wealth and companionship. -
According to this discourse, it is obvious that a person, who himself does the meritorious deeds and urges others to do so, will enjoy the greatest benefits among the four types of persons. Therefore to lead the community to participate in religious activities is of great importance.
There are, two main objectives in doing the religious activities in the community: (1) to bring peace and prosperity to the members of community not only in the present lives but also in future existences, and (2) to promote the unity among the community.
To implement these objectives, the Myanmar nationals set up young women's associations, youth associations, etc., and unitedly participate in religious and social affairs for the welfare of the whole nation. It is necessary to have a religious hall in the community. So all Buddhists are responsible for building religious halls in their respective quarters.
On every Sabbath day, the members of the associations should urge everyone in the community to observe the moral precepts at the religious halls. There is a Myanmar saying:
"We know the importance of drinking water and foot-wears when we travel in summer and the value of charity and morality at the time of death."
The members of the community should meet regularly on Sabbath days at the religious halls to observe the moral precepts. They should collect donations in terms of money or kind from house to house occasionally, distribute part of the donations to monasteries in proportion to the number of bhikkhus and use part of the donations to prepare food for offering to the bhikkhus in the mornings.
The observers of the moral precepts should read or listen to the Dhamma on Sabbath days. In addition to daily offering of food to the bhikkhus, great special ceremonies for offering food and other requisites to the Buddha and the Samgha are usually held collectively and merrily. Occasional offering of the four requisites to bhikkhus by drawing lots, and annual ceremonies of conveying the twenty- eight Buddha images around the wards and villages are also held for the welfare of the community. The ceremonies of novitiation and ordination are also held in the community yearly. Donation ceremonies of Wazo robes at the be ginning of the Buddhist lent and donation ceremonies of Kathina robes at the end of the Buddhist lent are also held merrily.
In order to propagate the Buddha's Teachings and to uplift the religious knowledge of the youth, training classes on Buddhist culture, on the Thirty-eight Blessings and on the Buddhist Abhidhamma are held regularly, Strenuous efforts are made to arouse the interest and inspire the students to come to these classes, and necessary arrangements are provided for the convenience of the learners to attend classes.
The organizers also make attempts to hold discussions and lectures on Dhamma. On the Myanmar New Year Day, at the cross-road of every ward and village, people collectively listen to the discourses on holy protection. They set free fish, birds and other animals, and pay respect to the aged.
Seasonal festivals such as the festival of pouring water at the foot of the Bodhi Tree in the month of Kason (May) are also held annually. Social services such as opening ceremonies of new community, dwellings, birth-day ceremonies, wedding ceremonies and funeral rites are also performed collectively.
Being pious Buddhists, the Myanmar people make endeavours for the welfare of the community with conviction, devotion and compassion. These endeavours lead the community to peace, harmony and prosperity.
King Mindon, the founder of Mandalay and the sponsor of the fifth Great Samgha Council used to pronounce the royal edict of important rules to promulgate the religious duties of observing the five moral precepts. the thirty-eight blessings and the four sublime states on the fifth waxing day of every month to the whole country. The royal scroll mentioning the above pronouncement of the king was placed on the frontal globe of the royal elephant and conveyed around the city, beating the great drum carried by fifty persons. The King also established religious associations and religious halls.
That peace and happiness cannot be achieved by the physical progress alone have been demonstrated by the people of technically advanced countries. The moral progress is very essential to achieve true peace and happiness in life. The Buddha's Teaching can actually furnish the spiritual and moral progress to all human beings.
Therefore, every citizen should participate in the noble missionary work of propagating the Buddha's Sasana in the community as well as in the whole country so that all the people are spiritually and morally developed to enjoy peace and happiness to the fullest extent
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