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The Foundation of the Empire of Truth

by Anagarika Dharmapala (1914)

THE Chief of the world, the eldest of other universal religious teachers, the ascetic supreme, the successor of the former Buddhas, the Tathagata, the compassionate lord, the victorious conqueror of self, the discoverer of the Four Noble Truths, the perimatetic leader, the liberator absolute, the Teacher of Gods, Angels and Men, the omniscient one, the true-hearted friend, the Great Physician-Surgeon, King of Righteousness - such are the epithets used to designate the Blessed One, Buddha Gautama.

To understand the absolute nature of the universal truths enunciated by the Buddha, a comprehensive study of the Three Pitakas has to be made. The Doctrine of Development which the blessed One promulgated is known as the DHAMMA. He who knows the DHAMMA sees the the BUDDHA. The Buddha is the embodiment of the Dhamma. The elements that go to make up the personality of the Buddha are identical with the principles that He enunciated. By thought, words and deeds the Buddha does not differentiate from absolute Truth. He is free from the fetters that bind the human and divine beings to matter and spirit. He has transcended the Kama, Rupa and Arupa states of consciousness. He has annihilated the roots of Ignorance, Lust and Covetousness. He is gone beyond the three-fold states where feelings and perceptions provoke the mind for attachment. Sorrow, Happiness and the adukkham-asukkha do not provoke his sense organs to cling to cosmic activities. He lives in the world, like other human beings, but with this difference that He is like the water drop that is on the lotus leaf. There is no attachment in His mind for anything in the worlds of Kama, Rupa, and Arupa. lie is gone beyond the upadanas. He is free from ignorance free from the generation of the threefold Sankharas; free from the activities of consciousness where the three-fold vedanas of pleasure, non-pleasure and indifference are in operation; free from the perceptions of organic form, sounds, smells, tastes, contact and dhamma ; free from the manifold desires of the three worlds ; free from the fetters ten, that impede the progress of the individual towards the absolute goal of Nirvana. He renounced all human and divine desires of the Kama, Rupa and Arupa worlds. Such is the infinite nature of the Blessed One whom the greater portion of humanity adores as their guide, Saviour, and Friend.

Anger, foolishness, lustful desires make both gods and men to wander in the recurrent world of Sansara.

There is no known beginning of the evolutionary element in the cosmic process. The Prince Ascetic, Siddhartha, for six years went through the experience of the Samanas and Brahmanas. He learnt the spiritual philosophy of the Arupa Brahman. He realized the condition of the Yoga which gives unmaterial happiness in the Arupa world, where consciousness enters into the state of nevasannana -sannayatana. Beyond that no Brahman ascetic could go. He probed to their depth all that the Rishis had promulgated. But their doctrines brought no satisfaction.

The Brahmans and Ascetics of the period were great at Asceticism. They practised the manifold variations of the terrific body-killing yoga. The Bodhisatta started to practise the deadening asceticism in the sylvan solitudes of Uruwela close to the limpid stream of Neranjara. He exerted strenuously as no ascetic had before or after exerted to gain Wisdom. The varieties of asceticism that the Bodhisatta practised are enumerated in the Bhayabherava, Maha Saccaka, Bodhiraja Kumara, Mahasihanada suttas of the Majjhima Nikaya. He abstained from every kind of food till he was reduced to a mere skeleton, until at last he fainted and fell on the ground. After He had regained consciousness He realized that absolute abstinence would not do, and He began to take just that amount of food as an aid to continue His exertions and when He regained a little of his lost bodily strength, knowledge increased whereby He found by analysis the futility of the kind of effort He was making. Then it dawned upon Him to look back into the experiences He had had since His birth, to find out at what stage of His life was He happy. Then the intuitional discovery was made that when He was a Babe sitting under the shade of the Jambu Tree, on the day of the Royal Ploughing Festival in the fields of Kapilavastu, He felt the happiness of joy freed from evil and lust. He found the way to Nirvana. Eseva Maggo Bodhiyati.

Then came the solution of the problem of the Religious life. Asceticism was condemned. The life of happiness avoiding evil and lust was chosen as the best way to realise the Infinite wisdom of Nirvana. The life of Happiness avoiding evil and lust demanded that He should eat nourishing food, and when He began to eat boiled rice His five ascetic Brahman companions were annoyed and forsook Him, saying the ascetic Gotama has given up his exertion and has become an accumulator of pleasure.

The nourishing food brought Him strength and the strength gave Him the power to realize the four Dhyana illuminations, which opened the door to the psychic attainment of looking back into the past births. He then looked back from one birth to two births, to three, four, ten, twenty, fifty, hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand, thousand thousands, and to the Kalpas of one, two, three, four, hundreds, thousands, to the Kalpas of destruction of the cosmic process, and to the Kalpas of formation of the cosmic process, and He realized the first state of Perfect Insight in the first portion of the night.

Then He attained His radiant consciousness to realize the state whereby He gained the knowledge of the (Cutupapata nana) death and birth of the individual personality. He found by His divine eye, transcending the human insight, how persons die here and are born again, some low, some high, some pleasant to look at, some not, some in states of blessedness, some in states of suffering, according to the Karma which they had done. Thus in the middle portion of the night He realized the second stage of Wisdom's Perfection, wherein Darkness had ceased and light was born.

He thus enunciated a beginningless past and absolute rebirth or reincarnation according to one's Karma, after death and the present life depending on the Law of Cause and Effect, which when based on Ignorance produces sorrow and suffering, and when freed from Ignorance, produces freedom infinite, beyond the power of kings, priests, ascetics, gods and creators. The first requisite necessary for the student to realize the infinite freedom, is to destroy the five obstacles, the five Nivaranas ; viz : Kamaccanda, desire for sense pleasures ; Byapada, ill will, hatred, anger etc., Thinamidda, mental lethargy, indifference ; Uddhacca kukkucca, restlessness, irritability; Vicikiccha, unscientific disbelief or doubt based on Ignorance of the Cosmic Process and of the laws of Karma or Cause and Effect.

Ignorance of the Four Noble Truths and of the 24 laws of Cosmic Evolution make man hold to mistaken views regarding the origin of life and the cessation thereof.

Birth, old age, disease, death, sorrows, griefs, tribulations, association with the unpleasant, separation from living objects, disappointment etc. maybe brought under the category of Sorrow. This is the first of the Four Noble Truths. At the time of the birth of the child both the mother and the child suffer. Suffering in manifold forms is visible. Famines, wars, plagues carry away tens of thousand. Poverty is another source of suffering.

The Cause of suffering is traced to Ignorance and yearning desires to enjoy the pleasures of the five sense organs. Man wishes to satisfy his eyes, his cars, his nose, his tongue, his body. He wishes to beautify his complexion, he wishes to see beautiful forms, to hear sensuous sounds, to inhale sweet fragrances, to taste delicious food, to have the satisfaction of touch. The unceasing desires when not carried into activity, disappointment follows, ultimately ending in pain. With the annihilation of Ignorance and desire for sense pleasures the mind realizes an indescribable happiness, which is foreign to him who lives surrounded by sense pleasures. Renunciation of sense pleasure may cause a temporary painfulness, but it has its reward in the realization of the infinite bliss of Nirvana. Nirvana simply means freedom from Ignorance, freedom from anger, freedom from lustful desires. It is a consummation worth striving for. Renuniciation therefore from all sense pleasures and from all evil [ends] in Nirvana.

The Buddha formulated so to speak a scheme of salvation, based on a scientific psychology.

In the Titthayatana Sutta, 3rd. Nipata, Anguttara Nikaya, the Exalted One condemned the three phases of unscientific religions. Law of Karma based on the Law of Cause and Effect is against the doctrine of Fatalism or Predestination. Human will is supreme. Resoluteness is a virtue that should be ceaselessly cultivated. It is called adhitthana, the dominating will. No god, Brahaman or devil is there to stand against the doer of good deeds. Ignorant people never even make the attempt to do anything that demands the exercise of Will Power. Their muddle-headedness is so strong that indolence becomes a habit with them, and the panacea for all their sorrows and sufferings is the acceptance of the despicable theory that every thing has been preordained either by Karma or by the Will of the Creator.

The pessimist who ceases to believe in a future, refrains from activity basing his belief on the principle that there has been no past nor will there be a future. The man who hesitates to do good deeds is a Nihilist. The Law of Cause and Effect has no hold on him. If he accepts that effort is productive, that we reap what we have sown, his nihilism would certainly disappear. Pessimism has no place in the dynamic doctrine of the Lord Buddha. The wise man is a potential god. His powers are infinite ; but they must be brought into existence by effort. The way to become a God is to practise the Noble Eightfold Path.

(Maha Bodhi Journal, Vol. 22, Dec. 1914).

Dhamma Essay:
Refuge in the Buddha by Bhikkhu Bodhi


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