Vegetarian Ideal

Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.
- Albert Einstein

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Albert Einstein- How I See the World

Albert Einstein- How I See the World

Jesus was a Buddhist Monk BBC Documentary

by on Jan 16, 2011

Click here to know TRUTH

This BBC 4 documentary examines the question "Did Jesus Die?". It looks at a bunch of ideas around this question until minute 25, where this examination of ideas takes a very logical and grounded turn with surprising conclusions that demonstrate...

The three wise men were Buddhist monks who found Jesus and came back for him around puberty. After being trained in a Buddhist Monastery he spread the Buddhist philosophy, survived the crucifixion, and escaped to Kashmir, Afghanistan where he died an old man at the age of 80.

Sogyal Rinpoche - Nature of the mind - Conquering the mind

 Uploaded by on Feb 26, 2011

Sogyal Rinpoche is a teacher of the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

Further Reading:
Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Sogyal Rinpoche, Dzogchen and Padmasambhava



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Buddhist Nun Speaks After 45 Years of Solitary Retreat

by on May 2, 2011
 Wade Davis
This is a clip from National Geographic's Light At the Edge of the World. The Buddhist monk wearing red robes in the video is Matthieu Ricard, who has some videos online and some books and cds.

The Trip (1967) - Full Movie Jack Nicholson

loaded by on Jan 15, 2011

The greatest psychedelic movie of all time!!!

Directed by: Roger Corman

Produced by: Roger Corman

Written by: Jack Nicholson

Starring: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Susan Strasberg and Bruce Dern

And music by: "The Electric Flag"



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Tough Guys The last collaboration between Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas

 The last collaboration between Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas 1986

Summertime (1955) David Lean directs Katharine Hepburn Full Film in Technicolor!

The Light at the Edge of the World (1971) MOVIE


 ed by on Jun 3, 2011

The 1971 pirate masterpiece starring Kirk Douglas Yul Brynner: 'The Light at the Edge of the World,' which is no longer available today in any format. You can't even download this film from torrent sites! I saw this film when I was ten in Barcelonia on a screen with a 180 degree wrap around screen. It made an enormous impression upon me and it remains one of my favourite all time films: Douglas and Brynner play the lead role to absolute perfection.

So bearing that in mind that my posting this video to YouTube will not result in anybody losing any revinue, as it cannot b purchased. I therefore hope that YouTube will permit me to continue to post this film in full.



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Sufi Mystic

Sufi mystic ; Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee talks about " the one "



The Monk and the Moon - Hermit of Zhongnan Mountains

by on Jun 26, 2009
A Buddhist hermit in China's Zhongnan Mountain range speaks
about the final stages of practice toward enlightenment.



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The Monk and the Moon - YouTube


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Four Noble Truths - Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taught

The Four Noble Truths
The heart of the Buddha’s teaching lies in the Four Noble Truths (Cattāri Ariyasaccāni) which he expounded in his very first sermon[38] to his old colleagues, the five ascetics, at Isipatana (modern Sarnath) near Benares. In this sermon, as we have it in the original texts, these four Truths are given briefly. 

But there are innumerable places in the early Buddhist scriptures where they are explained again and again, with greater detail and in different ways. If we study the Four Noble Truths with the help of these references and explanations, we get fairly good and accurate account of the essential teachings of the Buddha according to the original texts.
The Four Noble Truths are:

1. Dukkha[39]
2. Samudaya, the arising or origin of dukkha
3. Nirodha, the cessation of dukkha
4. Magga, the way leading to the cessation of dukkha

[38] Dhammacakkappavattana-sutta ‘Setting in Motion the Wheel of Truth’. Mhvg. (Alutgama, 1922), p. 9 ff; S V (PTS). p. 420 ff.
[39] I do not wish to give an equivalent in English for this term for reasons given below.

The Four Noble Truths - Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taught

The Buddhist Attitude of Mind - Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taught

 The material presented on this site is exceptional and it is suggested that readers visit it by using the links at the bottom of this page.  It has made some ideas more clear and  seems to get better the more it is read....

Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taugh

The Buddhist Attitude of Mind

chapter i
Among the founders of religions the Buddha (if we are permitted to call him the founder of a religion in the popular sense of the term) was the only teacher who did not claim to be other than a human being, pure and simple. Other teachers were either God, or his incarnations in different forms, or inspired by him. The Buddha was not only a human being; he claimed no inspiration from any god or external power either. He attributed all his realization, attainments and achievements to human endeavour and human intelligence. A man and only a man can become a Buddha. Every man has within himself the potentiality of becoming a Buddha, if he so wills it and endeavours. We can call the Buddha a man par excellence. He was so perfect in his ‘human-ness’ that he came to be regarded later in popular religion almost as ‘super-human’.
Man’s position, according to Buddhism, is supreme. Man is his own master, and there is no higher being or power that sits in judgment over his destiny.

One is one’s own refuge, who else could be the refuge?[1] said the Buddha. He admonished his disciples to ‘be a refuge to themselves’, and never to seek refuge in or help from anybody else.[2] He taught, encouraged and stimulated each person to develop himself and to work out his own emancipation, for man has the power to liberate himself from all bondage through his own personal effort and intelligence. The Buddha says: ‘You should do your work, for the Tathāgatas[3] only teach the way.’[4] If the Buddha is to be called a ‘saviour’ at all, it is only in the sense that he discovered and showed the Path to Liberation, Nirvāṇa. But we must tread the Path ourselves.

It is on this principle of individual responsibility that the Buddha allows freedom to his disciples. In the Mahāparinibbāna-sutta the Buddha says that he never thought of controlling the Sangha (Order of Monks),[5] nor he did want the Sangha to depend on him. 

He said that there was no esoteric doctrine in his teaching, nothing hidden in the ‘closed-fist of the teacher’ (ācariya-muṭṭhi), or to put it in other words, there never was anything ‘up his sleeve’.[6]
The freedom.........

  of thought allowed by the Buddha is unheard of elsewhere in the history of religions. This freedom is necessary because, according to the Buddha, man’s emancipation depends on his own realization of Truth, and not on the benevolent grace of a god or any external power as a reward for his obedient good behaviour.

The Buddha once visited a small town called Kesaputta in the kingdom of Kosala. The inhabitants of his town were known by the common name Kālāma. When they heard that the Buddha was in their town, the Kālāmas paid him a visit, and told him:
‘Sir, there are some recluses and brāhmaṇas who visit Kesaputta. They explain and illumine only their own doctrines, and despise, condemn and spurn others’ doctrines. Then come other recluses and brāhmaṇas, and they, too, in their turn, explain and illumine only their own doctrines, and despise, condemn and spurn others’ doctrines. But, for us, Sir, we have always doubt and perplexity as to who among these venerable recluses and brāhmaṇas spoke the truth, and who spoke falsehood.’

Then the Buddha gave them this advice unique in the history of religions:
‘Yes, Kālāmas, it is proper that you have doubt, that you have perplexity, for a doubt has arisen in a matter which is doubtful. Now, look you Kālāmas, do not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of religious texts, nor by mere logic or inference, nor by considering appearances, nor by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea: ‘this is our teacher’. But, O Kālāmas, when you know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome (akusala), and wrong, and bad, then give them up … And when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome (kusala) and good, then accept them and follow them.’[7]

The Buddha went even further. He told the bhikkhus that a disciple should examine even the Tathāgata (Buddha) himself, so that he (the disciple) might be fully convinced of the true value of the teacher whom he followed.[8]

According to the Buddha’s teaching, doubt (vicikicchā) is one of the five Hindrances (nīvaraṇa)[9] to the clear understanding of Truth and to spiritual progress (or for that matter to any progress). Doubt, however, is not a ‘sin’, because there are no articles of faith in Buddhism. In fact there is no ‘sin’ in Buddhism, as sin is understood in some religions. The root of all evil is ignorance (avijjā) and false views (micchā diṭṭhi). It is an undeniable fact that as long as there is doubt, perplexity, wavering, no progress is possible. It is also equally undeniable that there must be doubt as long as one does not understand or see clearly. But in order to progress further it is absolutely necessary to get rid of doubt. To get rid of doubt one has to see clearly.

There is no point in saying that one should not doubt or one should believe. Just to say ‘I believe’ does not mean that you understand and see. When a student works on a mathematical problem, he comes to a stage beyond which he does not know how to proceed, and where he is in doubt and perplexity. As long as he has this doubt, he cannot proceed. If he wants to proceed, he must resolve this doubt. And there are ways of resolving that doubt. Just to say ‘I believe’, or, ‘I do not doubt’ will certainly not solve the problem. To force oneself to believe and to accept a thing without understanding is political, and not spiritual or intellectual.

The Buddha was always eager to dispel doubt. Even just a few minutes before his death, he requested his disciples several times to ask him if they had any doubts about his teaching, and not to feel sorry later that they could not clear those doubts. But the disciples were silent. What he said then was touching: ‘If it is through respect for the Teacher that you do not ask anything, let even one of you inform his friend’ (i.e., let one tell his friend so that the latter may ask the question on the other’s behalf).[10]

Not only the freedom of thought, but also the tolerance allowed by the Buddha is astonishing to the student of the history of religions. Once in Nālandā a prominent and wealthy householder named Upāli, a well-known lay disciple of Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta (Jaina Mahāvīra), was expressly sent by Mahāvīra himself to meet the Buddha and defeat him in argument on certain points in the theory of Karma, because the Buddha’s views on the subject were different from those of Mahāvīra.[11] Quite contrary to expectations, Upāli, at the end of the discussion, was convinced that the views of the Buddha were right and those of his master were wrong. So he begged the Buddha to accept him as one of his lay disciples (Upāsaka). But the Buddha asked him to reconsider it, and not to be in a hurry, for ‘considering carefully is good for well-known men like you’. When Upāli expressed his desire again, the Buddha requested him to continue to respect and support his old religious teachers as he used to.[12]

In the third century B.C., the great Buddhist Emperor Asoka of India, following this noble example of tolerance and understanding, honoured and supported all other religions in his vast empire. In one of his Edicts carved on rock, the original of which one may read even today, the Emperor declared:
‘One should not honour only one’s own religion and condemn the religions of others, but one should honour others’ religions for this or that reason. So doing, one helps one’s own religion to grow and renders service to the religions of others too. In acting otherwise one digs the grave of one’s own religion and also does harm to other religions. Whosoever honours his own religion and condemns other religions, does so indeed through devotion to his own religion, thinking “I will glorify my own religion”. But on the contrary, in so doing he injures his own religion more gravely. So concord is good: Let all listen, and be willing to listen to the doctrines professed by others’.[13]

We should add here that this spirit of sympathetic understanding should be applied today not only in the matter of religious doctrine, but elsewhere as well.

This spirit of tolerance and understanding has been from the beginning one of the most cherished ideals of Buddhist culture and civilization. That is why there is not a single example of persecution or the shedding of a drop of blood in converting people to Buddhism, or in its propagation during its long history of 2500 years. It spread peacefully all over the continent of Asia, having more than 500 million adherents today. Violence in any form, under any pretext whatsoever, is absolutely against the teaching of the Buddha.

The question has often been asked: Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy? It does not matter what you call it. Buddhism remains what it is whatever label you may put on it. The label is immaterial. Even the label ‘Buddhism’ which we give to the teaching of the Buddha is of little importance. The name one gives it is inessential.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet.

In the same way Truth needs no label: it is neither Buddhist, Christian, Hindu nor Moslem. It is not the monopoly of anybody. Sectarian labels are a hindrance to the independent understanding of Truth, and they produce harmful prejudices in men’s minds.

This is true not only in intellectual and spiritual matters, but also in human relations. When, for instance, we meet a man, we do not look on him as a human being, but we put a label on him, such as English, French, German, American, or Jew, and regard him with all the prejudices associated with that label in our mind. Yet he may be completely free from those attributes which we have put on him.

People are so fond of discriminative labels that they even go to the length of putting them on human qualities and emotions common to all. So they talk of different ‘brands’ of charity, as for example, of Buddhist charity or Christian charity, and look down upon other ‘brands’ of charity. But charity cannot be sectarian; it is neither Christian, Buddhist, Hindu nor Moslem. The love of a mother for her child is neither Buddhist nor Christian: it is mother love. Human qualities and emotions like love, charity, compassion, tolerance, patience, friendship, desire, hatred, ill-will, ignorance, conceit, etc., need no sectarian labels; they belong to no particular religions.

To the seeker after Truth it is immaterial from where an idea comes. The source and development of an idea is a matter for the academic. In fact, in order to understand Truth, it is not necessary even to know whether the teaching comes from the Buddha, or from anyone else. What is essential is seeing the thing, understanding it. There is an important story in the Majjhima-nikāya (sutta no.140) which illustrates this.

The Buddha once spent a night in a potter’s shed. In the same shed there was a young recluse who had arrived there earlier.[14] They did not know each other. The Buddha observed the recluse and thought to himself: ‘Pleasant are the ways of this young man. It would be good if I should ask about him’. So the Buddha asked him ‘O bhikkhu,[15] in whose name have you left home? Or who is your master? Or whose doctrine do you like?’
‘O friend,’ answered the young man, ‘there is the recluse Gotama, a Sakyan scion, who left the Sakya-family to become a recluse. There is high repute abroad of him that he is an Arahant, a Full-Enlightened One. In the name of that Blessed One I have become a recluse. He is my Master, and I like his doctrine.’

‘Where does that Blessed One, the Arahant, the Fully-Enlightened One live at the present time?’

‘In the countries to the north, friend, there is a city called Sāvatthi. It is there that Blessed One, the Arahant, the Fully-Enlightened One, is now living.’

‘Have you ever seen him, that Blessed One? Would you recognize him if you saw him?’
‘I have never seen that Blessed One. Nor should I recognize him if I saw him.’

The Buddha realized that it was in his name that this unknown young man had left home and become a recluse. But without divulging his own identity, he said: ‘O bhikkhu, I will teach you the doctrine. Listen and pay attention. I will speak.’

‘Very well, friend,’ said the young man in assent.

Then the Buddha delivered to this young man a most remarkable discourse explaining Truth (the gist of which is given later).[16]

It was only at the end of the discourse that this young recluse, whose name was Pukkusāti, realized that the person who spoke to him was the Buddha himself. So he got up, went before the Buddha, bowed down at the feet of the Master, and apologized to him for calling him ‘friend’[17] unknowingly. He then begged the Buddha to ordain him and admit him into the Order of the Sangha.

The Buddha asked him whether he had the alms-bowl and the robes ready. (A bhikkhu must have three robes and the alms-bowl for begging food). When Pukkusāti replied in the negative, the Buddha said that the Tathāgatas would not ordain a person unless the alms-bowl and the robes were ready. So Pukkusāti went out in search of an alms-bowl and robes, but was unfortunately savaged by a cow and died.[18]

Later, when this sad news reached the Buddha, he announced that Pukkusāti was a wise man, who had already seen the Truth, and attained the penultimate stage in the realization of Nirvāṇa, and that he was born in a realm where he would become an Arahant[19] and finally pass away, never to return to this world again.[20]

From this story it is quite clear that when Pukkusāti listened to the Buddha and understood his teaching, he did not know who was speaking to him, or whose teaching it was. He saw Truth. If the medicine is good, the disease will be cured. It is not necessary to know who prepared it, or where it came from.

Almost all religions are built on faith – rather ‘blind’ faith it would seem. But in Buddhism emphasis is laid on ‘seeing’, knowing, understanding, and not on faith, or belief. In Buddhist texts there is a word saddhā (Skt. śraddhā) which is usually translated as ‘faith’ or ‘belief’. But saddhā is not ‘faith’ as such, but rather ‘confidence’ born out of conviction. In popular Buddhism and also in ordinary usage in the texts the word saddhā, it must be admitted, has an element of ‘faith’ in the sense that it signifies devotion to the Buddha, the Dhamma (Teaching) and the Sangha (The Order).

According to Asanga, the great Buddhist philosopher of the 4th century A.C., śraddhā has three aspects: (1) full and firm conviction that a thing is, (2) serene joy at good qualities, and (3) aspiration or wish to achieve an object in view.[21]

However you put it, faith or belief as understood by most religions has little to do with Buddhism.[22]

The question of belief arises when there is no seeing – seeing in every sense of the word. The moment you see, the question of belief disappears. If I tell you that I have a gem hidden in the folded palm of my hand, the question of belief arises because you do not see it yourself. But if I unclench my fist and show you the gem, then you see it for yourself, and the question of belief does not arise. So the phrase in ancient Buddhist texts reads: ‘Realizing, as one sees a gem (or a myrobalan fruit) in the palm’.

A disciple of the Buddha named Musīla tells another monk: ‘Friend Saviṭṭha, without devotion, faith or belief,[23] without liking or inclination, without hearsay or tradition, without considering apparent reasons, without delight in the speculations of opinions, I know and see that the cessation of becoming is Nirvāṇa.’[24]

And the Buddha says: ‘O bhikkus, I say that the destruction of defilement and impurities is (meant) for a person who knows and who sees, and not for a person who does not know and does not see.’[25]

It is always a question of knowing and seeing, and not that of believing. The teaching of the Buddha is qualified as ehi-passika, inviting you to ‘come and see’, but not to come and believe.

The expressions used everywhere in Buddhist texts referring to persons who realized Truth are: ‘The dustless and stainless Eye of Truth (Dhamma-cakkhu) has arisen.’ ‘He has seen Truth, has attained Truth, has known Truth, has known Truth, has penetrated into Truth, has crossed over doubt, is without wavering.’ ‘Thus with right wisdom he sees it as it is (yathā bhūtaṃ)’.[26] With reference to his own Enlightenment the Buddha said: ‘The eye was born, knowledge was born, wisdom was born, science was born, light was born.’[27] It is always seeing through knowledge or wisdom (ñāṇa-dassana), and not believing through faith.

This was more and more appreciated at a time when Brāhmaṇic orthodoxy intolerantly insisted on believing and accepting their tradition and authority as the only Truth without question. Once a group of learned and well-known Brahmins went to see the Buddha and had a long discussion with him. One of the group, a Brahmin youth of 16 years of age, named Kāpaṭhika, considered by them all to be an exceptionally brilliant mind, put a question to the Buddha:[28]

‘Venerable Gotama, there are the ancient holy scriptures of the Brahmins handed down along the line by unbroken oral tradition of texts. With regard to them, Brahmins come to the absolute conclusion: “This alone is Truth, and everything else is false”. Now, what does the Venerable Gotama say about this?’

The Buddha inquired: ‘Among Brahmins is there any one single Brahmin who claims that he personally knows and sees that “This alone is Truth, and everything else is false”?’

The young man was frank, and said: ‘No’.

‘Then, is there any one single teacher, or a teacher of teachers of Brahmins back to the seventh generation, or even any one of those original authors of those scriptures, who claims that he knows and he sees: “This alone is Truth, and everything else is false”?’


‘Then, it is like a line of blind men, each holding on to the preceding one; the first one does not see, the middle one also does not see, the last one also does not see. Thus, it seems to me that the state of the Brahmins is like that of a line of blind men.’

Then the Buddha gave advice of extreme importance to the group of Brahmins: ‘It is not proper for a wise man who maintains (lit. protects) truth to come to the conclusions: “This alone is Truth, and everything else is false”.’

Asked by the young Brahmin to explain the idea of maintaining or protecting truth, the Buddha said: ‘A man has a faith. If he says “This is my faith”, so far he maintains truth. But by that he cannot proceed to the absolute conclusion: “This alone is Truth, and everything else is false”.’ In other words, a man may believe what he likes, and he may say ‘I believe this’. So far he respects truth. But because of his belief or faith, he should not say that what he believes is alone the Truth, and everything else is false.

The Buddha says: ‘To be attached to one thing (to a certain view) and to look down upon other things (views) as inferior – this the wise men call a fetter.’[29]

Once the Buddha explained[30] the doctrine of cause and effect to his disciples, and they said that they saw it and understood it clearly. Then the Buddha said:
‘O bhikkhus, even this view, which is so pure and so clear, if you cling to it, if you fondle it, if you treasure it, if you are attached to it, then you do not understand that the teaching is similar to a raft, which is for crossing over, and not for getting hold of.’[31]
Elsewhere the Buddha explains this famous simile in which his teaching is compared to a raft for crossing over, and not for getting hold of and carrying on one’s back:
‘O bhikkhus, a man is on a journey. He comes to a vast stretch of water. On this side the shore is dangerous, but on the other it is safe without danger. No boat goes to the other shore which is safe and without danger, nor is there any bridge for crossing over. He says to himself: “This sea of water is vast, and the shore on this side is full of danger; but on the other shore it is safe and without danger. No boat goes to the other side, nor is there a bridge for crossing over. It would be good therefore if I would gather grass, wood, branches and leaves to make a raft, and with the help of the raft cross over safely to the other side, exerting myself with my hands and feet”. Then that man, O bhikkhus, gathers grass, wood, branches and leaves and makes a raft, and with the help of that raft crosses over safely to the other side, exerting himself with his hands and feet. Having crossed over and got to the other side, he thinks: “This raft was of great help to me. With its aid I have crossed safely over to this side, exerting myself with my hands and feet. It would be good if I carry this raft on my head or on my back wherever I go”.

‘What do you think, O bhikkhus? if he acted in this way would that man be acting properly with regard to the raft?’ “No, Sir”. ‘In which way then would he be acting properly with regard to the raft? Having crossed and gone over to the other side, suppose that man should think: “This raft was a great help to me. With its aid I have crossed safely over to this side, exerting myself with my hands and feet. It would be good if I beached this raft on the shore, or moored it and left it afloat, and then went on my way wherever it may be”. Acting in this way would that man act properly with regard to that raft.

‘In the same manner, O bhikkhus, I have taught a doctrine similar to a raft – it is for crossing over, and not for carrying (lit. getting hold of). You, O bhikkhus, who understand that the teaching is similar to a raft, should give up even good things (dhamma); how much more then should you give up evil things (adhamma).’[32]

From this parable it is quite clear that the Buddha’s teaching is meant to carry man to safety, peace, happiness, tranquillity, the attainment of Nirvāṇa. The whole doctrine taught by the Buddha leads to this end. He did not say things just to satisfy intellectual curiosity. He was a practical teacher and taught only those things which would bring peace and happiness to man.

The Buddha was once staying in a Siṃsapa forest in Kosambi (near Allahabad). He took a few leaves into his hand, and asked his disciples: ‘What do you think, O bhikkhus? Which is more? These few leaves in my hand or the leaves in the forest over here?
‘Sir, very few are the leaves in the hand of the Blessed One, but indeed the leaves in the Siṃsapa forest over here are very much more abundant.’

‘Even so, bhikkhus, of what I have known I have told you only a little, what I have not told you is very much more. And why have I not told you (those things)? Because that is not useful… not leading to Nirvāṇa. That is why I have not told you those things.’[33]

It is futile, as some scholars vainly try to do, for us to speculate on what the Buddha knew but did not tell us.

The Buddha was not interested in discussing unnecessary metaphysical questions which are purely speculative and which create imaginary problems. He considered them as a ‘wilderness of opinions.’ It seems that there were some among his own disciples who did not appreciate this attitude of his. For, we have the example of one of them, Māluṅkyaputta by name, who put to the Buddha ten well-known classical questions on metaphysical problems and demanded answers.[34]

One day Māluṅkyaputta got up from his afternoon meditation, went to the Buddha, saluted him, sat on one side and said:
‘Sir, when I was all alone meditating, this thought occurred to me: There are these problems unexplained, put aside and rejected by the Blessed One. Namely, (1) is the universe eternal or (2) is it not eternal, (3) is the universe finite or (4) is it infinite, (5) is soul the same as body or (6) is soul one thing and body another thing, (7) does the Tathāgata exist after death, or (8) does he not exist after death, or (9) does he both (at the same time) exist and not exist after death, or (10) does he both (at the same time) not exist and not not-exist. These problems the Blessed One does not explain to me. This (attitude) does not please me, I do not appreciate it. I will go to the Blessed One and ask him about this matter. If the Blessed One explains them to me, then I will continue to follow the holy life under him. If he does not explain them, I will leave the Order and go away. If the Blessed One knows that the universe is eternal, let him explain it to me so. If the Blessed One knows that the universe is not eternal, let him say so. If the Blessed One does not know whether the universe is eternal or not, etc., then for a person who does not know, it is straightforward to say “I do not know. I do not see”.’

The Buddha’s reply to Mālunkyaputta should do good to many millions in the world today who are wasting valuable time on such metaphysical questions and unnecessarily disturbing their peace of mind:
‘Did I ever tell you, Māluṅkyaputta, “Come, Māluṅkyaputta, lead the holy life under me, I will explain these questions to you?”

‘No, Sir.’

‘Then, Māluṅkyaputta, even you, did you tell me: “Sir, I will lead the holy life under the Blessed One, and the Blessed One will explain these questions to me”?’

‘No, Sir.’

‘Even now, Māluṅkyaputta, I do not tell you: “Come and lead the holy life under me, I will explain these questions to you”. And you do not tell me either: “Sir, I will lead the holy life under the Blessed One, and he will explain these questions to me”. Under these circumstances, you foolish one, who refuses whom?[35]

‘Māluṅkyaputta, if anyone says: “I will not lead the holy life under the Blessed One until he explains these questions”, he may die with these questions unanswered by the Tathāgata. 

Suppose Māluṅkyaputta, a man is wounded by a poisoned arrow, and his friends and relatives bring him to a surgeon. Suppose the man should then say: “I will not let this arrow be taken out until I know who shot me; whether he is a Kṣatriya (of the warrior caste) or a Brāhmaṇa (of the priestly caste) or a Vaiśya (of the trading and agricultural caste) or a Śūdra (of the low caste); what his name and family may be; whether he is tall, short, or of medium stature; whether his complexion is black, brown, or golden: from which village, town or city he comes. I will not let this arrow be taken out until I know the kind of bow with which I was shot; the kind of bowstring used; the type of arrow; what sort of feather was used on the arrow and with what kind of material the point of the arrow was made.”

Māluṅkyaputta, that man would die without knowing any of these things. Even so, Māluṅkyaputta, if anyone says: “I will not follow the holy life under the Blessed One until he answers these questions such as whether the universe is eternal or not, etc.”, he would die with these questions unanswered by the Tathāgata.’

Then the Buddha explains to Māluṅkyaputta that the holy life does not depend on these views. Whatever opinion one may have about these problems, there is birth, old age, decay, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, distress, “the Cessation of which (i.e. Nirvāṇa) I declare in this very life.”

‘Therefore, Māluṅkyaputta, bear in mind what I have explained as explained and what I have not explained as unexplained. What are the things that I have not explained? Whether the universe is eternal or not, etc., (those 10 opinions) I have not explained. 

Why, Māluṅkyaputta, have I not explained them? Because it is not useful, it is not fundamentally connected with the spiritual holy life, is not conducive to aversion, detachment, cessation, tranquility, deep penetration, full realization, Nirvāṇa. That is why I have not told you about them.

‘Then, what, Māluṅkyaputta, have I explained? I have explained dukkha, the arising of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha, and the way leading to the cessation of dukkha.[36] 

Why, Māluṅkyaputta, have I explained them? Because it is useful, is fundamentally connected with the spiritual holy life, is conductive to aversion, detachment, cessation, tranquility, deep penetration, full realization, Nirvāṇa. Therefore I have explained them.’[37]

Let us now examine the Four Noble Truths which the Buddha told Māluṅkyaputta he had explained.

[1] Dhp. XII 4.
[2] D II (Colombo, 1929), p. 62 (Mahāparinibbāna-sutta).
[3] Tathāgata lit. means ‘One who has come to Truth’, i.e., ‘One who has discovered Truth’. This is the term usually used by the Buddha referring to himself and to the Buddhas in general.
[4] Dhp. XX 4.
[5] Sangha lit. means ‘Community’. But in Buddhism this term denotes ‘The community of Buddhist monks’ which is the Order of Monks. Buddha, Dhamma (Teaching) and Sangha (Order) are known as Tisaraṇa ‘Three Refuges’ or Tiratana (Sanskrit Triratna) ‘Triple-Gem’.
[6] D II (Colombo, 1929), p. 62.
[7] A (Colombo, 1929), p. 115.
[8] Vīmaṃsaka-sutta, no. 47 of M.
[9] The Five Hindrances are : (ı) Sensuous Lust, (2) Ill-will, (3) Physical and mental torpor and languour, (4) Restlessness and Worry, (5) Doubt.
[10] D II (Colombo, 1929), p. 95; A (Colombo, 1929), p. 239.
[11] Mahāvīra, founder of Jainism, was a contemporary of the Buddha, and was probably a few years older than the Buddha.
[12] Upāli-sutta, no.56 of M.
[13] Rock Edict, XII.
[14] In India potters’ sheds are spacious, and quiet. References are made in the Pali texts to ascetics and recluses, as well as to the Buddha himself, spending a night in a potter’s shed during their wanderings.
[15] It is interesting to note here that the Buddha addresses this recluse as Bhikkhu, which te

  term is used for Buddhist monks. In the sequel it will be seen that he was not a bhikkhu, not a member of the Order of the Sangha, for he asked the Buddha to admit him into the Order. Perhaps in the days of the Buddha the term ‘bhikkhu’ was used at times even for other ascetics indiscriminately, or the Buddha was not very strict in the use of the term. Bhikkhu means ‘mendicant, one who begs food’ and perhaps it was used here in its literal and original sense. But today the term ‘bhikkhu’ is used only of Buddhist monks, especially in Theravāda countries like Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and in Chittagong.
[16] In the chapter on the third Noble Truth, see p.24.
[17] The term used was Āvuso which mean friend. It is a respectful term of address among equals. But disciples never used this term addressing the Buddha. Instead they use the term Bhante which approximately means ‘Sir’ or ‘Lord’. At the time of the Buddha, the members of his Order of Monks (Sangha) addressed one another as Āvuso ‘Friend’. But before his death the Buddha instructed younger monks to address their elders as Bhante ‘Sir’ or Āyasmā ‘Venerable’. But elders should address the younger members by name, or as Āvuso ‘Friend’. (D II Colombo, 1929, p. 95). This practice is continued up to the present day in the Sangha.
[18] It is well-known that cows in India roam about the streets. From this reference it seems that the tradition is very old. But generally these cows are docile and not savage or dangerous.
[19] An Arahant is a person who has liberated himself from all defilements and impurities such as desire, hatred, ill-will, ignorance, pride, conceit, etc. He has attained the fourth or the highest and ultimate stage in the realization of Nirvāṇa, and is full of wisdom, compassion and such pure and noble qualities. Pukkusāti had attained at the moment only the third stage which is technically called Anāgāmi ‘Never-Returner’. The second stage is called Sakadāgāmi ‘Once-Returner’ and the first stage is called Sotāpanna ‘Stream-Entrant’.
[20] Karl Gjellerup’s The Pilgrim Kamanita seems to have been inspired by this story of Pukkusāti.
[21] Abhisamuc, p.6
[22] The role of the Miracle in Early Pali Literature by Edith Ludowyk-Gyömrői takes up this subject. Unfortunately this Ph.D. thesis is not yet published. On the same subject see an article by the same author in the Unversity of Ceylon Review, Vol. I, No. I (April, 1943), p. 74 ff.
[23] Here the word saddhā is used in its ordinary popular sense of ‘devotion, faith, belief’.
[24] S II (PTS.), p. 117.
[25] Ibid. III, p. 152.
[26] E.g. S V, (PTS), p. 423; III, p. 103; M III (PTS), p. 19.
[27] S V (PTS), p. 422.
[28] Caṅkī-sutta, no. 95 of M.
[29] Sn (PTS), p. 151 (v.798)
[30] In the Mahātaṇhāsaṅkhaya-sutta, no. 38 of M.
[31] M I (PTS), p. 260.
[32] M I (PTS), pp. 134-135. Dhamma here, according to the Commentary, means high spiritual attainments as well as pure views and ideas. Attachment even to these, however high and pure they may be, should be given up; how much more then should it be with regard to evil and bad things. MA II (PTS), p. 109
[33] S V (PTS),p. 437
[34] Cūla-Māluṅkya-sutta, no. 63 of M.
[35] i.e. both are free and neither is under obligation to the other.
[36] These Four Noble Truths are explained in the next four chapters.
[37] It seems that this advice of the Budda had the desired effect on Māluṅkyaputta, because elsewhere he is reported to have approached the Buddha again for instruction, following which he became an Arahant. A (Colomo, 1929), pp. 345-346; S IV (PTS), p. 72 ff.

The Buddhist Attitude of Mind - Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taught


The Buddha - Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taught

The Buddha
The Buddha, whose personal name was Siddhattha (Siddhārtha in Sanskrit), and family name Gotama (Skt. Gautama), lived in North India in the 6th century B.C. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the kingdom of the Sākyas (in modern Nepal). His mother was queen Māyā. 

According to the custom of the time, he was married quite young, at the age of sixteen, to a beautiful and devoted young princess named Yasodharā. The young prince lived in his palace with every luxury at his command. But all of a sudden, confronted with the reality of life and the suffering of mankind, he decided to find the solution – the way out of this universal suffering. At the age of 29, soon after the birth of his only child, Rāhula, he left his kingdom and became an ascetic in search of this solution. 

For six years the ascetic Gotama wandered about the valley of the Ganges, meeting famous religious teachers, studying and following their systems and methods, and submitting himself to rigorous ascetic practices. They did not satisfy him. So he abandoned all traditional religions and their methods and went his own way. 

It was thus that one evening, seated under a tree (since then known as the Bodhi- or Bo-tree, ‘the Tree of Wisdom’), on the bank of the river Nerañjarā at Buddha-Gaya (near Gaya in modern Bihar), at the age of 35, Gotama attained Enlightenment, after which he was known as the Buddha, ‘The Enlightened One’.

After his Enlightenment, Gotama the Buddha delivered his first sermon to a group of five ascetics, his old colleagues, in the Deer Park at Isipatana (modern Sarnath) near Benares. 

From that day, for 45 years, he taught all classes of men and women – kings and peasants, Brahmins and outcasts, bankers and beggars, holy men and robbers – without making the slightest distinction between them. He recognized no differences of caste or social groupings, and the Way he preached was open to all men and women who were ready to understand and to follow it. 

At the age of 80, the Buddha passed away at Kusinārā (in modern Uttar Pradesh in India).
Today Buddhism is found in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Tibet, China, Japan, Mongolia, Korea, Formosa, in some parts of India, Pakistan and Nepal, and also in the Soviet Union. The Buddhist population of the world is over 500 million.

The Buddha - Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taught


Preface - Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taught

All over the world today there is growing interest in Buddhism. 

Numerous societies and study-groups have come into being, and scores if books have appeared on the teaching of the Buddha. It is to be regretted, however, that most of them have been written by those who are not really competent, or who bring to their task misleading assumptions derived from other religions, which must misinterpret and misrepresent their subject. 

A professor of comparative religion who recently wrote a book on Buddhism did not even know that Ānanda, the devoted attendant of the Buddha, was a bhikkhu (a monk), but thought he was a layman! The knowledge of Buddhism propagated by books like these can be left to the reader’s imagination. 

I have tried in this little book to address myself first of all to the educated and intelligent general reader, uninstructed in the subject, who would like to know what the Buddha actually taught. For his benefit I have aimed at giving briefly, and as directly and simply as possible, a faithful and accurate account of the actual words used by the Buddha as they are to be found in the original Pali texts of the Tipiṭaka, universally accepted by scholars as the earliest extant records of the teachings of the Buddha. The material used and the passages here are taken directly from these originals. In a few places I have referred to some later works too.

I have borne in mind, too, the reader who has already some knowledge of what the Buddha taught and would like to go further with his studies. I have therefore provided not only the Pali equivalents of most of the key-words, but also references to the original texts in footnotes, and a select bibliography. 

The difficulties of my task have been manifold: throughout I have tried to steer a course between the unfamiliar and the popular, to give the English reader of the present day something which he could understand and appreciate, without sacrificing anything of the matter and the form of the discourses of the Buddha. 

Writing the book I have had the ancient texts running in my mind, so I have deliberately kept the synonyms and repetitions which were a part of the Buddha’s speech as it has come down to us through oral tradition, in order that the reader should have some notion of the form used by the Teacher. I have kept as close as I could to the originals, and have tried to make my translations easy and readable.

But there is a point beyond which it is difficult to take an idea without losing in the interests of simplicity the particular meaning the Buddha was interested in developing. 

As the title ‘What the Buddha Taught’ was selected for this book, I felt that it would be wrong not to set down the words of the Buddha, even the figures he used, in preference to a rendering which might provide the easy gratification of comprehensibility at the risk of distortion of meaning.

I have discussed in this book almost everything which is commonly accepted as the essential and fundamental teaching of the Buddha.

These are the doctrines of the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Five Aggregates, Karma, Rebirth, Conditioned Genesis (Paṭiccasamuppāda), the doctrine of No-Soul (Anatta), Satipaṭṭhāna (the Setting-up of Mindfulness). 

Naturally there will be in the discussion expressions which must be unfamiliar to the Western reader. I would ask him, if he is interested, to take up on his first reading the opening chapter, and then go on to Chapters V, VII and VIII, returning to Chapters II, III, IV and VI when the general sense is clearer and more vivid. 

It would not be possible to write a book on the teaching of the Buddha without dealing with the subjects which Theravāda and Mahāyāna Buddhism have accepted as fundamental in his system of thought.

The term Theravāda – Hīnayāna or ‘Small Vehicle’ is no longer used in informed circles – could be translated as ‘the School of the Elders’ (theras), and Mahāyāna as ‘Great Vehicle’. 

They are used of the two main forms of Buddhism known in the world today. Theravāda, which is regarded as the original orthodox Buddhism, is followed in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Chittagong in East Pakistan. Mahāyāna, which developed relatively later, is followed in other Buddhist countries like China, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, etc. 

There are certain differences, mainly with regard to some beliefs, practices and observances between these two schools, but on the most important teachings of the Buddha, such as those discussed here, Theravāda and Mahāyāna are unanimously agreed. 

It only remains for me now to express my sense of gratitude to Professor E.F.C. Ludowyk, who in fact invited me to write this book, for all the help given me, the interest taken in it, the suggestions he offered, and for reading through the manuscript. To Miss Marianne Möhn too, who went through the manuscript and made valuable suggestions, I am deeply grateful. 

Finally I am greatly beholden to Professor Paul Demiéville, my teacher in Paris, for his kindness in writing the Foreword.
W. Rahula
July 1958
To Mani
Sabbadānaṃ dhammadānaṃ jināti
‘The gift of Truth excels all other gifts

Preface - Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taught


Foreword - Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taught

The discussion on this site is really clear and helpful.  It is a new source of knowledge about Buddhist concepts and the forward is by way of introduction for my purposes and any readers who share my interest in mindfulness and other Buddhist ideas.


by Paul Demiéville

Member of the Institut de France,
Professor at the College de France
Director of Buddhist Studies at the School
of Higher Studies (Paris)

Here is an exposition of Buddhism conceived in a resolutely modern spirit by one of the most qualified and enlightened representatives of that religion.

The Rev. Dr. W. Rahula received the traditional training and education of a Buddhist monk in Ceylon, and held eminent positions in one of the leading monastic institutes (Pirivena) in that island, where the Law of the Buddha flourishes from the time of Asoka and has preserved all its vitality up to this day.

Thus brought up in ancient tradition, he decided, at this time when all traditions are called in question, to face the spirit and the methods of international scientific learning. He entered the Ceylon University, obtained the B.A. Honours degree (London), and then won the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of the Ceylon University on a highly learned thesis on the History of Buddhism in Ceylon. Having worked with distinguished professors at the University of Calcutta and come in contact with adepts of Mahāyāna (the Great Vehicle), that form of Buddhism which reigns from Tibet to the Far East, he decided to go into the Tibetan and Chinese texts in order to widen his œcumenism, and he has honoured us by coming to the University of Paris (Sorbonne) to prepare a study of Asanga, the illustrious philosopher of Mahāyāna, whose principal works in the original Sanskrit are lost, and can only be read in their Tibetan and Chinese translations.

It is now eight years since Dr. Rahula is among us, wearing yellow robe, breathing the air of the Occident, searching perhaps in our old troubled mirror a universalized reflection of the religion which is his.

The book, which he has kindly asked me to present to the public of the West, is a luminous account, within reach of everybody, of the fundamental principles of the Buddhist doctrine, as they are found in the most ancient texts, which are called ‘The Tradition’ (Āgama) in Sanskrit and ‘The Canonic Corpus’ (Nikāya) in Pali.

Dr. Rahula, who possesses an incomparable knowledge of these texts, refers to them constantly and almost exclusively. Their authority is recognized unanimously by all the Buddhist schools, which were and are numerous, but none of which ever deviates from these texts, except with the intention of better interpreting the spirit beyond the letter.

The interpretation has indeed been varied in the course of the expansion of Buddhism through many centuries and vast regions, and the Law has taken more than one aspect.

But the aspect of Buddhism here presented by Dr. Rahula – humanist, rational, Socratic in some respects, Evangelic in others, or again almost scientific – has for its support a great deal of authentic scriptural evidence which he only had to let speak for themselves.

The explanations which he adds to his quotations, always translated with scrupulous accuracy, are clear, simple, direct and free from all pedantry.

Some among them might lead to discussion, as when he wishes to rediscover in the Pali sources all the doctrines of Mahāyāna; but his familiarity with those sources permits him to throw new light on them.

He addresses himself to the modern man, but he refrains from insisting on comparisons just suggested here and there, which could be made with certain currents and thought of the contemporary world: socialism, atheism, existentialism, psycho-analysis.

It is for the reader to appreciate the modernity, the possibilities of adaptation of a doctrine which, in this work of genuine scholarship, is presented to him in its primal richness.


Meditation or Mental Culture - Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taught

Meditation or Mental Culture - Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taught


Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taught
The Buddha
The Buddhist Attitude of Mind
The Four Noble Truths
The First Noble Truth
The Second Noble Truth
The Third Noble Truth
The Fourth Noble Truth
The Doctrine of No Soul
Meditation or Mental Culture
What the Buddha Taught and The World Today

Meditation or Mental Culture

chapter vii.


The Buddha said: ‘O bhikkhus, there are two kinds of illness. What are those two? Physical illness and mental illness. There seem to be people who enjoy freedom from physical illness even for a year or two… even for a hundred years or more. But, O bhikkhus, rare in this world are those who enjoy freedom from mental illness even for one moment, except those who are free from mental defilements’ (i.e., except arahants).[160]

The Buddha’s teaching, particularly his way of ‘meditation’, aims at producing a state of perfect mental health, equilibrium and tranquility. 

It is unfortunate that hardly any other section of the Buddha’ teaching is so much misunderstood as ‘meditation’, both by Buddhists and non-Buddhists.

The moment the word ‘meditation’ is mentioned, one thinks of an escape from the daily activities of life; assuming a particular posture, like a statue in some cave or cell in a monastery, in some remote place cut off from society; and musing on, or being absorbed in, some kind of mystic or mysterious thought or trance.

True Buddhist ‘meditation’ does not mean this kind of escape at all. The Buddha’s teaching on this subject was so wrongly, or so little understood, that in later times the way of ‘meditation’ deteriorated and degenerated into a kind of ritual or ceremony almost technical in its routine.[161]

Most people are interested in meditation or yoga in order to gain some spiritual or mystic powers like the ‘third eye’, which others do not posses.

There was some time ago a Buddhist nun in India who was trying to develop a power to see through her ears, while she was still in the possession of the ‘power’ of perfect eye-sight!

This kind of idea is nothing but ‘spiritual perversion’. It is always a question of desire, ‘thirst’ for power.

The word meditation is a very poor substitute for the original term bhāvanā, which means ‘culture’ or ‘development’, i.e., mental culture or mental development.

The Buddhist bhāvanā, properly speaking, is mental culture in the full sense of the term. 

It aims at cleansing the mind of impurities and disturbances, such as lustful desires, hatred, ill-will, indolence, worries and restlessness, skeptical doubts, and cultivating such qualities as concentration, awareness, intelligence, will, energy, the analytical faculty, confidence, joy, tranquility, leading finally to the attainment of highest wisdom which sees the nature of things as they are, and realize the Ultimate Truth, Nirvāṇa.

There are two forms of meditation. One is the development of mental concentration (samatha or samādhi), of one-pointedness of mind (cittekaggatā, Skt. cittaikāgratā), by various methods prescribed in the texts, leading up to the highest mystic states such as ‘the Sphere of Nothingness’ or ‘the Sphere of Neither-Perception-nor-Non-Perception’.

All these mystic states, according to the Buddha, are mind-created, mind-produced, conditioned (saṃkhata).[162] They have nothing to do with Reality, Truth, Nirvāṇa.

This form of meditation existed before the Buddha. Hence it is not purely Buddhist, but it is not excluded from the field of Buddhist meditation. However it is not essential for the realization of Nirvāṇa.

The Buddha himself, before his Enlightenment, studied these yogic practices under different teachers and attained to the highest mystic states; but he was not satisfied with them, because they did not give complete liberation, they did not give insight into the Ultimate Reality. He considered these mystic states only as ‘happy living in this existence’ (diṭṭhadhammasukhavihāra), or ‘peaceful living’ (santavihāra), and nothing more.[163]

He therefore discovered the other form of ‘meditation’ known as vipassanā (Skt. vipaśyanā or vidarśanā), ‘Insight’ into the nature of things, leading to the complete liberation of mind, to the realization of the Ultimate Truth, Nirvāṇa.

This is essentially Buddhist ‘meditation’, Buddhist mental culture. It is an analytical method based on mindfulness, awareness, vigilance, observation.

It is impossible to do justice to such a vast subject in a few pages. However an attempt is made here to give a very brief and rough idea of the true Buddhist ‘meditation’, mental culture or mental development, in a practical way.

The most important discourse ever given by the Buddha on mental development (‘meditation’) is called the Satipaṭṭhāna-sutta ‘The Setting-up of Mindfulness’ (No. 22 of the Digha-nikāya, or No. 10 of the Majjhima-nikāya).

This discourse is so highly venerated in tradition that it is regularly recited not only in Buddhist monasteries, but also in Buddhist homes with members of the family sitting round and listening with deep devotion. Very often bhikkhus recite this sutta by the bed-side of a dying man to purify his last thoughts.

The ways of ‘meditation’ given in this discourse are not cut off from life, nor do they avoid life; on the contrary, they are all connected with our life, our daily activities, our sorrows and joys, our words and thoughts, our moral and intellectual occupations.

The discourse is divided into four main sections: the first section deals with our body (kāya), the second with our feelings and sensations (vedanā), the third with the wind (citta), and the fourth with various moral and intellectual subjects (dhamma).

It should be clearly borne in mind that whatever the form of ‘meditation’ may be, the essential thing is mindfulness or awareness (sati), attention or observation (anupassanā).

One of the most well-known, popular and practical examples of ‘meditation’ connected with the body is called ‘The Mindfulness or Awareness of in-and-out breathing’ (ānāpānasati).

It is for this ‘meditation’ only that a particular and definite posture is prescribed in the text.

For other forms of ‘meditation’ given in this sutta, you may sit, stand, walk, or lie down, as you like. But, for cultivating mindfulness of in-and-out breathing, one should sit, according to the text, ‘cross-legged, keeping the body erect and mindfulness alert’.

But sitting cross-legged is not practical and easy for people of all countries, particularly for Westerners. Therefore, those who find it difficult to sit cross-legged may sit on a chair, ‘keeping the body erect and mindfulness alert’.

It is very necessary for this exercise that the mediator should sit erect, but not stiff; his hands placed comfortably on his lap. Thus seated, you may close your eyes, or you may gaze at the tip of your nose, as it may be convenient to you.

You breathe in and out all day and night, but you are never mindful of it, you never for a second concentrate your mind on it. Now you are going to do just this.

Breathe in and out as usual, without any effort or strain. Now, bring your mind to concentrate on your breathing-in and breathing-out; let your mind watch and observe your breathing in and out; let your mind be aware and vigilant of your breathing in and out.

When you breathe, you sometimes take deep breaths, sometimes not. This does not matter at all. Breathe normally and naturally. The only thing is that when you take deep breaths you should be aware that they are deep breaths, and so on.

In other words, your mind should be so fully concentrated on your breathing that you are aware of its movements and changes. Forget all other things, your surroundings, your environment; do not raise your eyes and look at anything. Try to do this for five or ten minutes.

At the beginning you will find it extremely difficult to bring your mind to concentrate on your breathing. You will be astonished how your mind runs away. It does not stay.

You begin to think of various things. You hear sounds outside. Your mind is disturbed and distracted. You may be dismayed and disappointed.

But if you continue to practice this exercise twice daily, morning and evening, for about five or ten minutes at a time, you will gradually, by and by, begin to concentrate your mind on your breathing.

After a certain period, you will experience just that split second when your mind is fully concentrated on your breathing, when you will not hear even sounds nearby, when no external world exists for you.

This slight moment is such a tremendous experience for you, full of joy, happiness and tranquility, that you would like to continue it. But still you cannot.

Yet if you go on practising this regularly, you may repeat the experience again and again for longer and longer periods. That is the moment when you lose yourself completely in your mindfulness of breathing. As long as you are conscious of yourself you can never concentrate on anything.

This exercise of mindfulness of breathing, which is one of the simplest and easiest practices, is meant to develop concentration leading up to very high mystic attainments (dhyāna).

Besides, the power of concentration is essential for any kind of deep understanding, penetration, insight into the nature of things, including the realization of Nirvāṇa.

Apart from all this, this exercise on breathing gives you immediate results. It is good for your physical health, for relaxation, sound sleep, and for efficiency in your daily work. It makes you calm and tranquil.

Even at moments when you are nervous or excited, if you practise this for a couple of minutes, you will see for yourself that you become immediately quiet and at peace. You feel as if you have awakened after a good rest.

Another very important, practical, and useful form of ‘meditation’ (mental development) is to be aware and mindful of whatever you do, physically or verbally, during the daily routine of work in your life, private, public or professional.

Whether you walk, stand, sit, lie down, or sleep, whether you stretch or bend your limbs, whether you look around, whether you put on your clothes, whether you talk or keep silence, whether you eat or drink, even whether you answer the calls of nature – in these and other activities, you should be fully aware and mindful of the act you perform at the moment.

That is to say, that you should live in the present moment, in the present action. This does not mean that you should not think of the past or the future at all. On the contrary, you think of them in relation to the present moment, the present action, when and where it is relevant.

People do not generally live in their actions, in the present moment. They live in the past or in the future.

Though they seem to be doing something now, here, they live somewhere else in their thoughts, in their imaginary problems and worries, usually in the memories of the past or in desires and speculations about the future.

Therefore they do not live in, nor do they enjoy, what they do at the moment. So they are unhappy and disconnected with the present moment, with the work at hand, and naturally they cannot give themselves fully to what they appear to be doing.

Sometimes you see a man in a restaurant reading while eating – a very common sight. He gives you the impression of being a very busy man, with no time even for eating.

You wonder whether he eats or reads. One may say that he does both.

In fact, he does neither, he enjoys neither.

He is strained, and disturbed in mind, and he does not enjoy what he does at the moment, does not live his life in the present moment, but unconsciously and foolishly tries to escape from life. (This does not mean, however, that one should not talk with a friend while having lunch or dinner.)

You cannot escape life however you may try. As long as you live, whether in a town or in a cave, you have to face it and live it.

Real life is the present moment – not the memories of the past which is dead and gone, nor the dreams of the future which is not yet born. One who lives in the present moment lives in the real life, and he is happiest.

When asked why his disciples, who lived a simple and quiet life with only one meal a day, were so radiant, the Buddha replied: ‘They do not repent the past, nor do they brood over the future. They live in the present. Therefore they are radiant. 

By brooding over the future and repenting the past, fools dry up like green reeds cut down (in the sun).’[164]

Mindfulness, or awareness, does not mean that you should think and be conscious ‘I am doing this’ or ‘I am doing that’. No. Just the contrary. 

The moment you think ‘I am doing this’ you become self-conscious, and then you do not live in the action, but you live in the idea ‘I am’, and consequently your work too is spoilt.

You should forget yourself completely, and lose yourself in what you do. 

The moment a speaker becomes self-conscious and thinks ‘I am addressing an audience’, his speech is disturbed and his trend of thought broken.

But when he forgets himself in his speech, in his subject, then he is at his best, he speaks well and explains things clearly.

All great work – artistic, poetic, intellectual or spiritual – is produced at those moments when its creators are lost completely in their actions, when they forget themselves altogether, and are free from self-consciousness.

This mindfulness or awareness with regard to our activities, taught by the Buddha, is to live in the present moment, to live in the present action. (This is also the Zen way which is based primarily on this teaching.) 

Here in this form of meditation, you haven’t got to perform any particular action in order to develop mindfulness, but you have only to be mindful and aware of whatever you may do.

You haven’t got to spend one second of your precious time on this particular ‘meditation’: you have only to cultivate mindfulness and awareness always, day and night, with regard to all activities in your usual daily life.

These two forms of ‘meditation’ discussed above are connected with our body.

Then there is a way of practising mental development (‘meditation’) with regard to all our sensations or feelings, whether happy, unhappy or neutral. Let us take only one example.

You experience an unhappy, sorrowful sensation. In this state your mind is cloudy, hazy, not clear, it is depressed. In some cases, you do not even see clearly why you have that unhappy feeling.

First of all, you should learn not to be unhappy about your unhappy feeling, not to be worried about your worries. But try to see clearly why there is a sensation or a feeling of unhappiness, or worry, or sorrow.

Try to examine how it arises, its cause, how it disappears, its cessation. Try to examine it as if you are observing it from outside, without any subjective reaction, as a scientist observes some object.

Here, too, you should not look at it as ‘my feeling’ or ‘my sensation’ subjectively, but only look at it as ‘a feeling’ or ‘a sensation’ objectively. You should forget again the false idea of ‘I’.

When you see its nature, how it arises and disappears, your mind grows dispassionate towards that sensation, and becomes detached and free. It is the same with regard to all sensations or feelings.

Now let us discuss the form of ‘meditation’ with regard to our minds. You should be fully aware of the fact whenever your mind is passionate or detached, whenever it is overpowered by hatred, ill-will, jealousy, or is full of love, compassion, whenever it is deluded or has a clear and right understanding, and so on and so forth. We must admit that very often we are afraid or ashamed to look at our own minds. So we prefer to avoid it. One should be bold and sincere and look at one’s own mind as one looks at one’s face in a mirror.[165]

Here is no attitude of criticizing or judging, or discriminating between right and wrong, or good and bad. It is simply observing, watching, examining. You are not a judge, but a scientist. When you observe your mind, and see its true nature clearly, you become dispassionate with regard to its emotions, sentiments and states. Thus you become detached and free, so that you may see things as they are.

Let us take one example. Say you are really angry, overpowered by anger, ill-will, and hatred. It is curious, and paradoxical, that the man who is in anger is not really aware, not mindful that he is angry. The moment he becomes aware and mindful of that state of his mind, the moment he sees his anger, it becomes, as if it were, shy and ashamed, and begins to subside. You should examine its nature, how it arises, how it disappears.

Here again it should be remembered that you should not think ‘I am angry’, or of ‘my anger’. You should only be aware and mindful of the state of an angry mind. You are only observing and examining an angry mind objectively. This should be the attitude with regard to all sentiments, emotions, and states of mind.

Then there is a form of ‘meditation’ on ethical, spiritual and intellectual subjects. All our studies, reading discussions, conversation and deliberations on such subjects are included in this ‘meditation’. To read this book, and to think deeply about the subjects discussed in it, is a form of meditation. We have seen earlier[166] that the conversation between Khemaka and the group of monks was a form of meditation which led to the realization of Nirvāṇa.

So, according to this form of meditation, you may study, think, and deliberate on
the Five Hindrances, (Nīvaraṇa), namely:

1. lustful desires (kāmacchanda)

2. ill-will, hatred or anger (vyāpāda)

3. torpor and languor (thīna-middha)

4. restlessness and worry (uddhacca-kukkucca),

5. sceptical doubts (vicikicchā)

These five are considered as hindrances to any kind of clear understanding, as a matter of fact, to any kind of progress. When one is over-powered by them and when one does not know how to get rid of them, then one cannot understand right and wrong, or good and bad.

One may also ‘meditate’ on the Seven Factors of Enlightenment (Bojjhaṅga).

They are:

1. Mindfulness (sati), i.e., to be aware and mindful in all activities and movements both physical and mental, as we discussed above.

2. Investigation and research into the various problems of doctrine (dhamma-vicaya). Included here are all our religious, ethical and philosophical studies, reading, researches, discussions, conversation, even attending lectures relating to such doctrinal subjects.

3. Energy (viriya), to work with determination till the end.

4. Joy (pīti), the quality quite contrary to the pessimistic, gloomy or melancholic attitude of mind.

5. Relaxation (passaddhi) of both body and mind. One should not be stiff physically or mentally.

6. Concentration (samādhi), as discussed above.

7. Equanimity (upekkhā), i.e., to be able to face life in all its vicissitudes with calm of mind, tranquility, without disturbance.

To cultivate these qualities the most essential thing is a genuine wish, will, or inclination. Many other material and spiritual conditions conductive to the development of each quality are described in the texts.

One may also ‘meditate’ on such subjects as the Five Aggregates investigating the question ‘What is a being?’ or ‘What is it that is called I?’ or on the Four Noble Truths, as we discussed above. Study and investigation of those subjects constitute this fourth form of meditation, which leads to the realization of Ultimate Truth.

Apart from those we have discussed here, there are many other subjects of meditation, traditionally forty in number, among which mention should be made particularly of the four Sublime States: (Brahma-vihāra): (1) extending unlimited, universal love and good-will (mettā) to all living beings without any kind of discrimination, ‘just as a mother loves her only child’; (2) compassion (karuṇā) for all living beings who are suffering, in trouble and affliction; (3) sympathetic joy (muditā) in others’ success, welfare and happiness; and (4) equanimity (upekkhā) in all vicissitudes of life.

[160] A (Colombo, 1929), p. 276.

[161] The Yogāvacara’s Manual (Edited by T.W. Rhys Davids, London, 1896), a text on meditation written in Ceylon probably about the 18th century, shows how meditation at the time had generated into a ritual of reciting formulas, burning candles, etc.

See also Chapter XII on the Ascetic Ideal, History of Buddhism in Ceylon by Walpola Rahula, (Colombo, 1956), pp. 199 ff.

[162] See above, p. 24.

[163] See Sallekha-sutta (no. 8), of M.

[164] S I (PTS), p. 5.

[165] M I (PTS), p. 100.

[166] See above p. 38.

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