Life is awareness

by M. B. WERAPITIYA, Lanka Daily News, July 17, 2008

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- By virtue of the fact one is born to Buddhist parents makes one claim to be a Buddhist, by religion. In reality, one becomes a Buddhist by tradition. However, a true Buddhist is one who takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma his teaching and the Sangha the Order of venerable Monks.

Refuge in Buddhist terms means safety from the pursuit and danger from the evil forces of craving, hatred and ignorance the sources of defilements that pollute the mind.

Craving is the urge for the over-indulgence of sense desires; hatred is the rebellious passion that arises from anger, aversion and illwill; ignorance is not knowing the four Noble Truths of sorrow, its cause, its cessation and the path leading to its cessation.

In order to take refuge in the Buddha, one must have confidence in Him that He is a peerless Guide, Trainer and Teacher of men and as a Man of par excellence is worthy of being emulated as a model.

Confidence, it must be remembered, arises out of conviction that a matter in issue has been weighed and considered according to rules of the law and proven beyond a doubt.

To begin with a Buddha-aspirant is one who has practised the ten perfections over billions of rebirths. In the case of the last Buddha Gautama, He was born as Prince Siddhartha in 563 B.C. fully matured to reach the Buddhahood.

Seeing human suffering and knowing that no specific had been found for its elimination, He took upon Himself to find a solution. He relinquished His claim to His father’s throne, left His wife and child and wandered homeless to achieve His goal.

He practised under the best known religious leaders, their disciplines and attained super psychical powers but that was not His aim.

Hence, He experimented on Himself going through extreme forms of austerity and self-mortification that took him to death’s door. Realising that a weak body led to a debilitated mind, He changed direction and took to a middle path. Next he developed his mind with insight meditation and saw things in their true nature.

His mind was thus awakened which made Him say, “As never before, vision arose in me, knowledge arose in me, wisdom arose in me, insight arose in me, light arose in me. The cause of suffering He discovered was rebirth and its ending is to follow the Eightfold Path of mental discipline, mindfulness and wisdom. Discovering the Four Noble Truths made Him a Buddha.

The Buddha’s teaching which lasted 45 years was from its beginning to the end based on righteous living. “The path to purification” a treatise by Buddhagosa, explains the Buddha’s teaching.

Out of love and compassion for mankind the Buddha guided the deluded, elevated those lacking in moral worth and dignified the noble. The rich and the poor, the saint and the criminal loved Him alike.

His nobel example was an inspiration to all. He was the most compassionate and tolerant of religious teachers. He ushered in a new profundity in thought, a new discipline in practice and a renaissance in the spirit of man.

Nehru, who for inspiration had on his bedside table a miniature statue of the Buddha in meditation form had this to say “The ages roll by and the Buddha seems not so far away after all his voice whispers in our ears and tells us not to run away from the struggle but calm-eyed, to face it and see in life ever greater opportunities for growth and advancement.”

To take refuge in the Dhamma would mean to make the Dhamma a part of oneself. It has to be realised by oneself. The Buddha has said, “Abide with the Dhamma as a refuge. Seek no external refuge.”

The Dhamma discovered by the first Buddha billions of years ago lapsed into oblivion in course of time and successive Buddhas rediscovered it from time to time and expounded it. Dhamma means, the Truth, the Law, what is and is valid for all times. It is an ethical code that leads to man’s moral uplift and spiritual liberation.

The Buddha was able to access into Akashic Records which contain history, man’s experience and wisdom from the beginning of time. Hence, His theories stand any test for credibility. For instance, let us take His theory that all conditioned things are anicca transient (annica), sorrowful (dukka) and nothingness (anatta).

The reality is that everything is in a state of change from moment to moment; what is changing is sorrowful for it brings about is ageing, disease, decay, death and rebirth in the case of man. With things happening outside one’s control one is caught up in a process of change in which self cannot remain unchanged. the day one demolishes the prison walls of self one is no more in isolation.

One then belongs to the world and is a part of the world. One’s thinking then is on a higher plane of love and compassion for all beings, so vitally necessary for peaceful-coexistence.

The question is bound to arise, if there is no self, who then is the thinker, the doer and the experiencer? The Buddha has given the answer thus - The mind is the forerunner of things evil and good; mind is chief and mind-made are they; evil thoughts are followed by suffering and good thoughts by happiness. Hence, it follows that thoughts is the thinker, the doer and the experiencer - thoughts alone roll on, unceasingly.

The Buddha went on to say that man is a bundle of feelings, sensations and perceptions. In this connection, modern science has this to say, “The essential stuff of the universe including your body is not ordinary non-stuff. The void inside every atom is pulsating with unseen intelligence. Life is awareness. Awareness is life.”

To take refuge in the Sangha it has to be understood that the venerable monks are living examples of the way of life to be lived. Making a deep study of the Dhamma, practising it, it is their sacred duty to instruct, guide and train the followers of the religion. The Sangha is worthy of offerings, hospitality, gifts, reverential salutation and is regarded as a field of merit in the world.

Taking refuge in the Three Refuges, makes one develop steadfast faith in Buddhism which is “saturated with the spirit of free inquiry and complete tolerance. It is the teaching of the open mind and the sympathetic heart which lighting and warming the whole universe with its twin rays of wisdom and compassion sheds its genial glow on every being struggling in this ocean of birth and death.”