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What Buddhism is Not

by Anagarika Dharmapala (1926)

THE Lord Buddha taught the Middle Doctrine to avoid the extremes of asceticism and sensuous indulgence. The Noble Eightfold Path shows the way to comprehend the Middle Doctrine. Buddhism is the English term to express the religion of the Lord Buddha. The Pali term for Buddhism is DHAMMA. The specific names to denote the DHAMMA are Sambodhiyana, Dhammayana, Jhanayoga, Ditthijala, Attajala, Brahmajala, Brahmayana, Vibhajjavada Samukkansadhamma, Vimutti nanadassana, Ariyamagga, Ariyadhamma, and Bodhi pakkhiya dhamma. It is not Nihilism (ucchedavada) ; it is not fatalism (pubbekatahetu vada) it is not Creatorism (issaranimmana vada). Then what is Buddhism ? It is a kiriyavada, kammavada, hetuvada, a paticcasarnuppanna dhamma, and an anupubbadhamma. Kriyavada connotes cause and effect, as for instance from milk is produced curd. The variations of absolute predestination, creatorism and nihilism are rejected by the Lord Buddha. He found the Universe is not the product of Chance, or is caused by the will of a foolish ignorant despotic phantom Creator, or due to absolute predestination, but the result of unerring natural Immutable Law of Cause and Effect. It is the Doctrine of gradual evolutionary development as we find in the biological evolution of the human germ cell. The supreme Teacher of gods and men taught that man is not the slave of muddle-headed metaphysicians who created from their imagination certain types of god. Theologians found in the god-idea a weapon to enslave the people. In the Tevijjasutta our Lord showed the foolishness of those who wished to assimilate themselves with their own imaginary gods. Repenting gods are still under illusion.

The Jatilas of ancient India came nearest to the psychology of Buddhism. They accepted the law of kamma or karma. The Jainas were believers in painful asceticism. They were under the belief that by bodily mortification evil karma could be destroyed. The liberated Jiva, they said, is bodiless and lives in eternal happiness in the state of kaivalya. The Brahman metaphysicians believed in the absorption of the liberated soul (atta) with Brahma. The German Buddhists of the Grimm school accept the dogma laid down by Dr. Grimm that there is a supreme permanent I. The opposite school led by Dr. DahIke lays down the dogma, which makes people think that the end of existence is annihilation. Dr. Grimm's theory is near to the Vedanta ideal. The psychology of Buddhism is transcendentally mystic. It is founded on purifying altruistic ethics without the least tinge of selfishness.

Covetousness, conceit, pride, egoism, anger, stubborness, etc. have to be completely destroyed from the mind. Until all immoral ideas are removed there is no possibility of progress in the mystic path. Desire for sensual enjoyments, illwill, slothfulness, restlessness and psychic scepticism are the obstacles to be removed by supreme effort with the aid of the Teacher. He is then to practise the Jhanas which are four, and in the fifth Jhana where no perceptions and feelings are at work, he realizes Nibbana in consciousness on this earth. The upekkha sati parisuddhi state clarifies the mind to realize the supremeness of anupadana state whereby the arammana of Nirvana is realized. European philosophers have no idea of the transcendental mysticism laid down in Buddhist psychology. The ordinary religionist thinks of heaven as the supreme goal of existence, where he thinks he can enjoy a sensuous existence in a sublimated form. Buddhism repudiates attachment to celestial existence as unworthy of the perfect Brahmachari. Even the higher forms of Brahmaloka existence is held in loathsomeness by the great Teacher because of the inexpressible sublimity of the eternal state of unconditioned Nirvana. Without Jhana there can be no acquisition of super knowledge (panna) without panna there can be no realizing of Jhana. The two together working in sympathy brings the devotee to the threshold of Nirvana. Nirvana is an abyakatadhamma. What it is only the perfected mind of the Arahat realizes. Neither the Sotapatti, Sakadagami or Anagami can have complete knowledge of Nirvana. The Sotapatti can hardly comprehend the mentality of the Sakadagami, and the Sakadagami is not able to know what is the state of the Anagami mind, and the Anagami if he dies without realizing the Arahat condition is born in one of the Suddahavasa brahmalokas where he lives for millions of years and then realized Nirvana. What is the final state of the Arahat consciousness? It is abyakata beyond speech, and only the Arahats know what it is. It is a state to be realized. Where the ten fetters operate there is no possibility of knowing the state of Nirvana.

In Buddhism there is also what is called the thapaniya panha (question to be set aside) which the Buddha has set aside as unprofitable to discuss. Did I exist? Wliat am I? What is my future? Is the body different from the soul? Are they the same? Is the world eternal? Is the world not eternal? Does the being exist after death? Does he not exist? etc. These are called thapaniya to be set aside. The muddle-headed scholar who knows nothing of the mystic doctrine of Jhana comes to the erroneous conclusion that Buddhism is Agnosticism. Buddhism is positive in these Four Noble Truths and the Bodhi pakkhiya Dhamma. Instead of wasting time to find out the Ego, the Buddha showed the path to find the consummation of Truth, which is Nirvana. So long as the four upadanas are active in the mind there is no hope of realizing Nirvana. Make the effort to destroy the four upadana and you arrive at the anupadana state, which is vimutti sukha. The upadanas are kamupadana, ditthi upadana, silabbata upadana and attavada upadana. Clinging to sensual pleasure is an upadana ; clinging to speculative beliefs is an upadana, clinging to manifold forms of ascetic habits is an upadana ; clinging to the manifold variations of egoism is an upadana. Desire to he born in a heaven or any state of Brahmaloka is an obstacle to realize the Nirvanic happiness. All exoteric popular religions are upadanic. To realize Nirvana one should strictly follow the 37 principles of the Bodhi pakkhiya dhamma. Effort must he made to destroy the ten fetters. Activity in doing meritorious deeds with no thought of self is Immortality.

(Maha Bodhi Journal Vol. 34, November 1926)

Dhamma Essay:
Two Faces of the Dhamma by Bhikkhu Bodhi

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