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A New Approach

U Nu

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Vol. 1, No. 2, 1953

(Speech delivered by the Hon'ble U Nu, Prime Minister of the Union of Burma, at the International Buddhist Cultural Conference on the occasion of the re-enshrinement of the Sacred relics of Sariputta and Mahamoggalana on the 29th November 1952 at Sanchi.)

Over 2,500 years ago, there was born a Prince in India. In his twenty-ninth year he renounced the pleasures of the palace including his wife and child. He was no other than the Buddha whose teachings brought to the forth, that is the Arahat stage, Sariputta and Moggalana, whose relics we are going to re-install in the new Vihara to-morrow. His teachings may briefly be described as follows

All beings without exception, whether they like it or not, will be reborn as beings of some kind immediately after their death. This process of life and death will go on forever in the great ocean of samsara, the unending chain of existences. The categories in which they can be reborn will be roughly as beings of one of the following four realms of existence

  1. Brahmas
  2. Devas
  3. Human beings
  4. Such beings of lower order as animals.

This endless process of life and death is due mainly to lobha (greed), dosa (hate), moha (delusion), which are firmly rooted in them. Ordinarily speaking, human beings appear to be superior to such lower beings as animals, Devas to men, and Brahmas to Devas ; but in reality none of them is a desirable form of existence. The reason is because as soon as a being is reborn, whether as animal, man, Deva or Brahma, that particular being cannot, by any means, escape such attendant miseries as decay, sickness, death, separation from the beloved, association with disagreeable ones, etc.

What is the way of escape from these sorrowful conditions ? There is only one way and that is to prevent rebirth after death. This can be effected only by uprooting the defilements, namely, lobha, dosa and moha which are the main causes of rebirths to which sentient beings are subject,

And the only way to accomplish this is to cultivate the mind and develop it to a certain degree of concentration.

When ones's mind is developed to that degree, one can attain the four stages of the Path called in Pali:

  1. Sotapatti,
  2. Sakadagami,
  3. Anagami,
  4. Arahat.

The person who reaches the first stage of the Path has eradicated all traces of doubt as regards his ultimate destiny. The person who reaches the second stage of the Path is not different from the first except that his passions become perceptibly attenuated. The person who reaches the third stage of the Path has completely eliminated all hate, fear and carnal desires, but he has not yet got rid of his craving for life in higher realms of existence. The Arahat who reaches the last stage of· the Path has completely annihilated not only hate, fear and carnal desires but also all cravings and attachments. One who has attained this final stage is not reborn at all after his death.

The above is a brief outline of the fundamental law discovered by the Buddha. This law consists of two parts. The first part relates to what will happen after death and it is well-nigh impossible for ordinary mortals to prove it. The second part relates, however, to what can happen here in this life and can be proved. I would like to explain this second part a little.

A predominating characteristic of human mind is to doubt. Even the religion one professes does not escape his doubt. Let us for example take the case of a Buddhist. Let him be a most devout priest or layman. If he is asked, "Have you complete faith in the Buddhist religion which you profess ?", he will reply, if he is honest, " No, sometimes I have feelings of doubt". This is a reasonable statement for anyone who is sincere, and you cannot expect a different answer. Why? Because to doubt is human. But in the case of the person who reaches the first stage of the Path, he has dispelled all feelings of doubt about the Buddha's law, because he has, so to speak, felt and realised in his inner mind what is said to be the end of all miseries.

The stage which is far superior to this stage is the third stage known as the Anagami. I shall explain this a little. A person, however good-natured he may be, cannot be free from hate; however brave he may be, cannot be free from fear. A good-natured person may be able at the utmost to control his hate and anger but he knows it himself that he has feelings of hate and anger in him. A brave person may be able at the utmost to control his fear. But he knows it himself that he still has feelings of fear in him. However, a person who reaches the third stage of the Path has only one main attachment left, and that is to be reborn in the higher realm of the Brahma world. He has no more. He has no more hate, fear, or carnal desire whatsoever. No one in the universe is capable of tempting him to give vent to fear, hate or carnal desire.

What is more astounding is the fourth and final stage. in the third stage there is still a craving to become a Brahma. But when one reaches the fourth stage and becomes an Arahat, he has annihilated, without any residue, not only hate, fear and carnal desire, but also all forms of desires. There is none in any part of the universe who is capable of tempting the one who reaches the fourth stage of the Path, to hate, fear, or have carnal or any other desires and cravings.

These mental and spiritual transformations which take place in the first, second, third and fourth stages are not what will take place in a future existence, but are those which he who reaches one of these four stages realizes for himself in this very existence.

Nowadays when a person discovers formulas for making Penicillin, jet-plane, atomic bomb, etc., and announces them to the world, scientists make experiments with them. The people should not fail to make similar tests with the discovery made by the Buddha, which invites personal investigation. Let us not approach it as a religion. Let us approach it as a formula and way of life for annihilating doubt, hate, fear, carnal or any other desires and cravings. It is my sincere appeal to you that you all should make serious efforts to test this formula and way of life, in the same way as scientists would test any new scientific theory discovered by any of them.

Let me emphatically declare from here that we have in our land many persons who have tested it and reached these various stages of realization.

[ The above was the speech delivered by the Hon'ble U Nu, the then Prime Minister of the Union of Burma, at the International Buddhist Cultural Conference on the occasion of the re-enshrinement of the Sacred relics of Sariputta and Mahamoggalana on the 29th November 1952 at Sanchi. The following story was also published by the 'Light of the Dhamma' at the same time as the speech. BTJ]


The two chief disciples of the Buddha were Sariputta and Mahamoggalana. In the year 1851 C. E., General Cunningham discovered their relics enshrined in the relic chamber of a stupa at Sanchi in the state of Bhopal. The relics were taken to England where they were kept for almost 100 years in the Albert and Victoria Museum, London.

On the representations of the Maha Bodhi Society of India and other Buddhist Organisations, these relics were finally restored to India and placed in the care of the Maha Bodhi Society.

On November the 29th and 30th with great ceremony these sacred relics were taken again to Sanchi and re-enshrined by Premier Nehru amidst the chantings of hymns by yellow-robed Bhikkhus from many countries of South Asia and deafening cheers from nearly one hundred thousand people representing almost every country in the world. The relics were taken in a mile-long procession of devotees chanting sacred verses, offering flowers and burning sweet-smelling incense. The relics were placed on a gold-embroidered cloth for two hours for worship by delegates from many countries who bowed in homage. The wife of the Burmese Prime Minister, Mrs. Nu, and the Maharajkumar of Sikkim, planted two saplings of the Bodhi tree, the Ficus Religiosa, named because it was under this tree that Gotama attained complete realisation over two thousand five hundred years ago.

Premier Nehru handed the relics to flue chief Bhikkhu, offering incense and flowers, while bells rang, verses were chanted, conch shells were blown and the assembly chorused, "Peace to all beings, may good will spread among mankind".


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