What is Buddhism ?
"This doctrine is profound, hard to see, difficult to understand, calm, sublime, not within the sphere of logic, subtle, to be understood by the wise".
-- MAJJHIMA NIKĀYA
The Buddha has passed away, but the sublime Teaching, which He expounded during His long and successful ministry and which He unreservedly bequeathed to humanity, still exists in its pristine purity.
Although the Master has left no written records of His Teachings, His disciples preserved them, by committing to memory and transmitting them orally from generation to generation.
Three months after the Death of the Buddha, in the eighth year of King Ajātasattu's reign, 500 pre-eminent Arahants concerned with preserving the purity of the Doctrine held a Convocation at Rājagaha to rehearse it. The Venerable Ānanda Thera, the Buddha's beloved attendant who had the special privilege and honour of hearing the discourses from the Buddha Himself, and the Venerable Upāli Thera were chosen to answer questions about the Dhamma (Doctrine) and the Vinaya (Discipline) respectively.
This First Council compiled and arranged in its present form the Pāli Tipitaka, which represents the entire body of the Buddha's Teaching.
Two other Councils of Arahants were held 100 and 236 years later respectively, again to rehearse the Word of the Buddha because attempts were being made to pollute the pure Teaching.
About 83 B.C., during the reign of the pious Simhala King Vatta Gāmani Abhaya, a Council of Arahants was held, and the Tipitaka was, for the first time in the history of Buddhism, committed to writing at Aluvihāra in Ceylon.
Thanks to the indefatigable efforts of those noble and foresighted Arahants, there is no room either now or in the future for higher critics or progressive scholars to adulterate the pure Teaching.
The voluminous Tipitaka, which contains the essence of the Buddha's Teaching, is estimated to be about eleven times the size of the Bible.
The word Tipitaka means three Baskets. They are the Basket of Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka), the Basket of Discourses (Sutta Pitaka) and the Basket of Ultimate Doctrine (Abhidhamma Pitaka).
The Vinaya pitaka, which is regarded as the sheet anchor of the Holy Order, deals mainly with the rules and regulations of the Order of Bhikkhus (monks) and Bhikkhunis (nuns). For nearly twenty years after the Enlightenment of the Buddha, no definite rules were laid down for control and discipline of the Sangha (Order). Subsequently as occasion arose, the Buddha promulgated rules for the future discipline of the Sangha. Reasons for the promulgation of rules, their various implications, and specific Vinaya ceremonies of the Sangha are fully described in the Vinaya pitaka. The history of the gradual development of Sāsana from its very inception, a brief account of the life and ministry of the Buddha, and details of the three Councils are some other additional relevant contents of the Vinaya Pitaka. Indirectly it reveals useful information about ancient history, Indian customs, ancient arts and sciences. One who reads the Vinaya Pitaka cannot but be impressed by the democratic constitution of the Sangha, their holding of possessions in common, the exceptionally high moral standard of the Bhikkhus, and the unsurpassed administrative abilities of the Buddha, who anticipated even the present Parliamentary system. Lord Zetland writes; "And it may come as a surprise to many to learn that in the Assemblies of the Buddhists in India two thousand years and more ago are to be found the rudiments of our own Parliamentary practice of the present day."
The Vinaya Pitaka consists of the following five books:
1. Pārājika Pāli Vibhanga (Major Offences)
2. Pācittiya Pāli (Minor Offences)
3. Mahāvagga Pāli Khandaka (Greater Section)
4. Cullavagga Pāli (Lesser Section)
5. Parivāra Pāli (Epitome of the Vinaya)
The Sutta Pitaka consists chiefly of instructive discourses delivered by the Buddha to both the Sangha and the laity on various occasions. A few discourses, expounded by disciples such as the Venerables Sāriputta, Moggallāna, and Ānanda,, are incorporated and are accorded as much veneration as the Word of the Buddha Himself, since they were approved by Him. Most of the sermons were intended mainly for the benefit of Bhikkhus, and they deal with the Holy Life and with the exposition of the Doctrine. There are several other discourses which deal with both the material and the moral progress of His lay-followers. The Sigālovāda Sutta, for instance, deals mainly with the duties of a layman. There are also a few interesting talks given to children.
This Pitaka may be compared to a book of prescriptions, since the discourses were expounded on diverse occasions to suit the temperaments of various persons. There may be seemingly contradictory statements, but they should not be misconstrued as they were uttered by the Buddha to suit a particular purpose; for instance, to the self same question He would maintain silence, when the inquirer was merely foolishly inquisitive, or give a detailed reply when He knew the inquirer to be an earnest seeker after the Truth.
The Sutta Pitaka consists of the following five Nikāyas (Collections):
1. Dīgha Nikāya (Collection of Long Discourses)
2. Majjhima Nikāya (Collection of Middle-length Discourses)
3. Samyutta Nikāya (Collection of Kindred Sayings)
4. Anguttara Nikāya (Collection of Gradual Sayings)
5. Khuddaka Nikāya (Smaller Collection)
This fifth is subdivided into fifteen books:
1. Khuddaka Pātha (Shorter Texts)
2. Dhammapada (The Way of Truth)
3. Udāna (Paeans of Joy)
4. Itivuttaka ("Thus said" Discourses)
5. Sutta Nipāta (Collected Discourses)
6. Vimāna Vatthu (Stories of Celestial Mansions)
7. Peta Vatthu (Stories of Petas)
8. Theragāthā (Psalms of the Brethren)
9. Therigāthā (Psalms of the Sisters)
10. Jātaka (Birth Stories of the Bodhisatta)
11. Niddesa (Expositions)
12. Patisambhidā (Book on Analytical Knowledge)
13. Apadāna (Lives of Arahants)
14. Buddhavamsa (History of the Buddha)
15. Cariyā Pitaka (Modes of Conduct)
The Abhidhamma Pitaka is the most important and most interesting of the three containing as it does the profound philosophy of the Buddha's teaching in contrast to the simpler discourses in the Sutta Pitaka.
Abhidhamma, the Higher Doctrine of the Buddha, expounds the quintessence of His profound teachings.
According to some scholars Abhidhamma is not a teaching of the Buddha, but is a later elaboration of scholastic monks. Tradition, however, attributes the nucleus of the Abhidhamma to the Buddha Himself. The Mātikā or Matrices of the Abhidhamma, such as Kusalā Dhammā (Wholesome States), Akusalā Dhammā (Unwholesome States), and Abyākata Dhammā (Indeterminate States), etc., which have been elaborated in the six books (Kathāvatthu being excluded), were expounded by the Buddha. To the Venerable Sāriputta is assigned the honour of having explained all these topics in detail.
Whoever the great author or authors may have been, it has to be admitted that the Abhidhamma must be the product of an intellectual genius comparable only to the Buddha. This is evident, from the intricate and subtle Patthāna Pakarana which describes in detail the various causal relations.
To the wise truth-seekers, Abhidhamma is an indispensable guide and an intellectual treat. Here is found food for thought to original thinkers and to earnest students who wish to develop wisdom and lead an ideal Buddhist life. Abhidhamma is not a subject of fleeting interest designed for the superficial reader.
Modern Psychology, limited as it is, comes within the scope of Abhidhamma inasmuch as it deals with mind, thoughts, thought-processes, and mental properties; but it does not admit of a psyche or a soul. It teaches a psychology without a psyche.
If one were to read the Abhidhamma as a modern text-book on psychology, one would be disappointed. No attempt has here been made to solve all the problems that confront a modern psychologist.
Consciousness (Citta) is defined. Thoughts are analysed and classified chiefly from an ethical standpoint. All mental properties (Cetasika) are enumerated. The composition of each type of consciousness is set forth in detail. How thoughts arise is minutely described. Bhavanga and Javana thought-moments, which are explained only in the Abhidhamma, and which have no parallel in modern psychology, are of special interest to research students in psychology. Irrelevant problems that interest students and scholars, but have no relation to one's Deliverance, are deliberately set aside.
Matter is summarily discussed, but it has not been described for physicists. Fundamental units of matter, material properties, source of matter, relationship of mind and matter are explained. Abhidhamma does not attempt to give a systematised knowledge of mind and matter. It investigates these two composite factors of the so-called being, to help the understanding of things as they truly are. A philosophy has been developed on those lines. Based on that philosophy, an ethical system has been evolved to realize the ultimate Goal, Nibbāna.
As Mrs. Rhys Davids rightly says:
"Abhidhamma deals with
(i) what we find within us, around us; and of
(ii) what we aspire to find."
While the Sutta Pitaka contains the conventional teaching (vohāra desanā), the Abhidhamma Pitaka contains the ultimate teaching (paramattha desanā).
It is generally admitted by most exponents of the Dhamma that a knowledge of the Abhidhamma is essential to comprehend fully the Teachings of the Buddha, as it presents the key that opens the door of reality.
The Abhidhamma Pitaka is composed of the following seven works:
1. Dhammasangani (Classification of Dhamma)
2. Vibhanga (Divisions)
3. Dhātukathā (Discourse on Elements)
4. Puggala Pa?atti (The Book on Individuals)
5. Kathāvatthu (Points of Controversy)
6. Yamaka (The Book of Pairs)
7. Patthāna (The Book of Causal Relations)
Is Buddhism a Philosophy?
The sublime Dhamma, enshrined in these sacred texts, deals with truths and facts that can be tested and verified by personal experience and is not concerned with theories and speculations, which may be accepted as profound truths today and thrown overboard tomorrow. The Buddha did not expound revolutionary philosophical theories, nor did He attempt to create a new material science. In plain terms He explained both what is within and what is without, so far as it concerns emancipation from the ills of life, and revealed the unique Path of Deliverance.
Furthermore, the Buddha did not teach all that He knew. On one occasion while the Buddha was staying in a forest, He took a handful of leaves and said: "O Bhikkhus, what I have taught you is comparable to the leaves in my hand, and what I have not taught you, to the leaves in the forest."
He taught what He deemed was absolutely essential for one's purification, and was characteristically silent on questions irrelevant to His noble mission. Incidentally, He forestalled many a modern scientist and philosopher.
Heraclitus (500 B.C.) believed that everything flows (pante rhei) and that the universe is a constant becoming. He taught that nothing ever is; everything is becoming. It was he who made the famous statement that a person cannot step into the same stream twice. Pythagoras (532 B.C.) taught, among other things, the theory of transmigration of souls. Descartes (1596-1650) declared the necessity of examining all phenomena at the bar of reasonable doubt. Spinoza (I632-1677). while admitting the existence of a permanent reality, asserted that all existence is transitory. In his opinion sorrow was to be conquered by finding an object of knowledge which is not transient, not ephemeral, but is immutable, permanent, everlasting. Berkely (1685-1776) thought that the so-called atom was a metaphysical fiction. Hume (1711-1776) analysed the mind and concluded that consciousness consists of fleeting mental states. In the view of Hegel (1770-1831) "the entire phenomenon is a becoming." Schopenhauer (1788-1860) in his "World as Will and Idea" has presented the truth of suffering and its cause in Western garb. Henri Bergson (1859-1941) advocated the doctrine of change, and emphasized the value of intuition. William James (1842-1910) referred to a stream of consciousness and denied the existence of a soul.
The Buddha expounded these truths of transiency (anicca), sorrow (dukkha), and soul-lessness (anattā) more than 2500 years ago.
The moral and philosophical teachings of the Buddha are to be studied, to be practised, and above all to be realized by one's own intuitive wisdom. As such the Dhamma is compared to a raft which enables one to cross the ocean of life.
Buddhism, therefore, cannot strictly be called a philosophy because it is not merely "the love of, inducing the search after, wisdom. " Nor is Buddhism "a hypothetical interpretation of the unknown (as in metaphysics), or of the inexactly known (as in ethics or political philosophy)."
If by philosophy is meant "an inquiry not so much after certain particular facts as after the fundamental character of this world in which we find ourselves, and of the kind of life which such a world it behoves us to live, Buddhism may approximate to a philosophy, but it is very much more comprehensive.
Philosophy deals mainly with knowledge and is not concerned with practice; whereas Buddhism lays special emphasis on practice and realization.
Is Buddhism a Religion?
Prof. Rhys Davids writes:
"What is meant by religion? The word, as is well-known is not found in languages not related to our own, and its derivation is uncertain. Cicero, in one passage, derived it from re and lego, and held that its real meaning was the repetition of prayers and incantations. Another interpreta-tion derives the word from re and logo, and makes its original sense that of attachment, of a continual binding (that is, no doubt to the gods). A third derivation connects the word with lex, and explains it as a law-abiding, scrupulously conscientious frame of mind."
Buddhism is not strictly a religion in the sense in which that word is commonly understood, for it is not "a system of faith and worship," owing any allegiance to a supernatural God.
Buddhism does not demand blind faith from its adherents. Hence mere belief is dethroned and for it is substituted "confidence based on knowledge." It is possible for a Buddhist to entertain occasional doubts until he attains the first stage of Sainthood (Sotāpatti) when all doubts about the Buddha, Dhamma, and the Sangha are completely resolved. One becomes a genuine follower of the Buddha only after attaining this stage.
The confidence of a follower of the Buddha is like that of a patient in respect of a noted physician, or of a student regarding his teacher. Although a Buddhist seeks refuge in the Buddha as his incomparable guide and teacher who indicates the Path of Purity, he makes no servile surrender.
A Buddhist does not think that he can gain purity merely by seeking refuge in the Buddha or by mere faith in Him. It is not within the power even of a Buddha to wash away the impurities of others. Strictly speaking, one can neither purify nor defile another. The Buddha, as Teacher, may be instrumental, but we ourselves are responsible for our purification.
In the Dhammapada the Buddha says:
"By, oneself alone is evil done: by oneself is one defiled.
By oneself alone is evil avoided: by oneself alone is one purified.
Purity and impurity depend on oneself: No one can purify another." (v. 145).
A Buddhist is not a slave to a book or to any individual. Nor does he sacrifice his freedom of thought by becoming a follower of the Buddha. He is at full liberty to exercise his own freewill and develop his knowledge even to the extent of attaining Buddhahood himself, for all are potential Buddhas. Naturally Buddhists quote the Buddha as their authority, but the Buddha Himself discarded all authority.
Immediate realization is the sole criterion of truth in Buddhism. Its keynote is rational understanding (Sammā ditthi). The Buddha advises seekers of truth not to accept anything merely on the authority of another but to exercise their own reasoning and judge for themselves whether a thing is right or wrong.
On one occasion the citizens of Kesaputta, known as Kālāmas, approached the Buddha and said that many ascetics and brahmins who came to preach to them used to exalt their own doctrines and denounce those of others, and that they were at a loss to understand which of those worthies were right.
"Yes, O Kā1āmas, it is right for you to doubt, it is right for you to waver. In a doubtful matter, wavering has arisen, " remarked the Buddha and gave them the following advice which applies with equal force to modern rationalists as it did to those sceptic brahmins of yore.
"Come, O Kālāmas, Do not accept anything on mere hearsay (i.e., thinking that thus have we heard it from a long time). Do not accept anything by mere tradition (i.e., thinking that it has thus been handed down through many generations). Do not accept anything on account of rumours (i.e., by believing what others say without any investigation). Do not accept anything just because it accords with your scriptures. Do not accept anything by mere supposition. Do not accept anything by mere inference. Do not accept anything by merely considering the appearances. Do not accept anything merely because it agrees with your preconceived notions. Do not accept anything merely because it seems acceptable (i.e., should be accepted). Do not accept anything thinking that the ascetic is respected by us (and therefore it is right to accept his word.)
"But when you know for yourselves -- these things are immoral, these things are blameworthy, these things are censured by the wise, these things, when performed and undertaken, conduce to ruin and sorrow -- then indeed do you reject them.
"When you know for yourselves -- these things are moral, these things are blameless, these things are praised by the wise, these things, when performed and undertaken, conduce to well-being and happiness -- then do you live and act accordingly."
These wise sayings of the Buddha, uttered some 2500 years ago, still retain their original force and freshness even in this enlightened twentieth century.
With a homely illustration Jnānasāra-samuccaya repeats the same counsel in different words.
"Tāpāc chedāc ca nikasat svarnam iva panditaih
Parikshya blikshavo grāhyam madvaco na tu gauravāt".
"As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it (on a piece of touchstone),
so are you to accept my words after examining them and not merely out of regard for me."
The Buddha exhorted His disciples to seek the truth, and not to heed mere persuasion even by superior authority.
Now, though it be admitted that there is no blind faith in Buddhism, one might question whether there is no worshipping of Buddha images and such like idolatry amongst Buddhists.
Buddhists do not worship an image expecting worldly or spiritual favours, but pay their homage to what it represents. A Buddhist goes before an image and offers flowers and incense not to the image but to the Buddha. He does so as a mark of gratitude, reflecting on the virtues of the Buddha and pondering on the transiency of flowers. An understanding Buddhist designedly makes himself feel that he is in the noble presence of the Buddha, and thereby gains inspiration to emulate Him.
Referring to images, the great philosopher Count Kaiserling writes:
"I know nothing more grand in this world than the figure of the Buddha. It is the perfect embodiment of spirituality in the visible domain."
Then again Buddhists do not worship the Bodhi-tree, but consider it a symbol of Enlightenment, and so, worthy of reverence.
Though such external forms of homage are prevalent amongst Buddhists, the Buddha is not worshipped as a God.
These external objects of homage are not absolutely necessary, but they are useful and they help one to concentrate one?s attention. An intellectual could dispense with them as he could easily focus his attention on the Buddha, and thus visualize Him.
For our own good, and out of gratitude, we pay such homage, but what the Buddha expects from His disciples is not obeisance but the actual observance of His teaching.
Just before the Buddha passed away, many disciples came to pay their respects to Him. One Bhikkhu, however, remained in his cell absorbed in meditation. This matter was reported to the Buddha who summoned him and, on enquiring the reason for his absence, was told: "Lord, I knew that Your Reverence would pass away three months hence, and I thought the best way of honouring the Teacher was by attaining Arahantship even before the decease of Your Reverence."
The Buddha extolled the praiseworthy conduct of that loyal and dutiful Bhikkhu, saying: "Excellent, excellent! He who loves me should emulate this Bhikkhu. He honours me best who practises my teaching best."
On another occasion the Buddha remarked: "He who sees the Dhamma sees me."
Furthermore, it must be mentioned that there are no petitionary or intercessory prayers in Buddhism. However much one may pray to the Buddha one cannot be saved. The Buddha does not and cannot grant worldly favours to those who pray to Him. A Buddhist should not pray to be saved, but should rely on himself and strive with diligence to win his freedom and gain purity. Advising His disciples not to depend on others but to depend on oneself and to be self-reliant, the Buddha says:
Tumhehi kiccam ātappam akkhātāro tathāgatā.
"Striving should be done by yourselves. The Tathāgatas are teachers."
The Buddha not only speaks of the futility of prayers but also disparages a slave mentality. Instead of prayers the Buddha emphasizes the importance of meditation that promotes self-discipline, self-control, self-purification and self-enlightenment. It serves as a tonic both to the mind and heart. Meditation is the essence of Buddhism.
In Buddhism there is not, as in most other religions, an Almighty God to be obeyed and feared. Buddhism denies the existence of a supernatural power, conceived as an Almighty Being or a causeless force. There are no Divine revelations nor Divine messengers or prophets. A Buddhist is therefore not subservient to any higher supernatural power which controls his destinies and which arbitrarily rewards and punishes. Since Buddhists do not believe in revelations of a Divine Being, Buddhism does not claim the monopoly of truth and does not condemn any other religion. "Intolerance is the greatest enemy of religion". With His characteristic tolerance, the Buddha advised His disciples not to get angry, discontented, or displeased even when others spoke ill of Him, or of His Teaching, or of His Order. "If you do so," the Buddha said, "you will not only bring yourselves into danger of spiritual loss, but you will not be able to judge whether what they say is correct or not correct" -- a most enlightened sentiment. Denouncing unfair criticism of other faiths, the Buddha states: "It is as a man who looks up and spits at heaven -- the spittle does not soil the heaven, but it comes back and defiles his own person."
Buddhism expounds no dogmas that one must blindly believe, no creeds that one must accept on good faith without reasoning, no superstitious rites and ceremonies to be observed for formal entry into the fold, no meaningless sacrifices and penances for one's purification.
Buddhism cannot, therefore, be strictly called a religion, because it is neither a system of faith and worship, nor "the outward act or form by which men indicate their recognition of the existence of a God or Gods having power over their own destiny to whom obedience, service, and honour are due."
Karl Marx said: "Religion is the soul of soulless conditions, the heart of a heartless world, the opium of the people." Buddhism is not such a religion, for all Buddhist nations grew up in the cradle of Buddhism and their present cultural advancement is clearly due mainly to the benign influence of the teachings of the Buddha.
However, if, by religion, is meant "a teaching which takes a view of life that is more than superficial, a teaching which looks into life and not merely at it, a teaching which furnishes men with a guide to conduct that is in accord with this in-look, a teaching which enables those who give it heed to face life with fortitude and death with serenity." or a system of deliverance from the ills of life, then certainly Buddhism is a religion of religions.
Is Buddhism an Ethical System?
Buddhism contains an excellent moral code, including one for the monks and another for the laity, but it is much more than an ordinary moral teaching.
Morality (sīla) is only the preliminary stage and is a means to an end, but not an end in itself. Though absolutely essential, it alone does not lead to one's Deliverance or perfect purity. It is only the first stage on the Path of Purity. Beyond morality is wisdom (pa?ā). The base of Buddhism is morality, and wisdom is its apex. As the pair of wings of a bird are these two complementary virtues. Wisdom is like unto man's eyes; morality is like unto his feet. One of the appellatives of the Buddha is Vijjācaranasampanna -- endowed with wisdom and conduct.
Of the Four Noble Truths that form the foundation of Buddhism, the first three represent the philosophy of the Buddha's teaching; the fourth the ethics of Buddhism based on that philosophy.
Morality in Buddhism is not founded on any doubtful divine revelation, nor is it the ingenious invention of an exceptional mind, but it is a rational and practical code based on verifiable facts and individual experience. In the opinion of Prof. Max Muller the Buddhist moral code is one of the most perfect which the world has ever known.
Prof. Rhys Davids says: "Buddhist or no Buddhist I have examined every one of the great religious systems of the world; and in none of those have I found anything to surpass in beauty and comprehensiveness the Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddha. I am content to shape my life according t o that path."
It is interesting to note that according to Buddhism there are deeds which are ethically good and bad, deeds which are neither good nor bad, and deeds which tend to the ceasing of all deeds. Good deeds are essential for one's emancipation, but when once the ultimate goal of the Holy Life is attained, one transcends both good and evil.
The Buddha says: "Righteous things (dhamma) you have to give up: how much more the unrighteous things (adhamma)."
The deed which is associated with attachment (lobha), illwill (dosa) and delusion (moha) is evil. That deed which is associated with non-attachment (alobha), goodwill (adosa), and wisdom (pa?ā), is good.
The deeds of an Arahant, a Stainless One, possess no ethical value as he has gone beyond both good and evil. This does not mean that he is passive. He is active, but his activity is selfless and is directed to help others to tread the path he has trodden himself. His deeds, ordinarily accepted as good, lack creative power as regards himself. Unlike the actions of a worldling his actions do not react on himself as a Kammic effect.
His actions, in Pāli, are called kiriya (functional). Purest gold cannot further be purified.
The mental states of the four types of supramundane Path consciousness, namely, Sotāpatti (Stream-Winner), Sakadāgāmi (Once-Returner), Anāgāmi (Non-Returner) and Arahatta (Worthy), though wholesome (kusala), do not tend to accumulate fresh Kamma, but, on the contrary, tend to the gradual cessation of the individual flux of becoming, and therewith to the gradual cessation of good and evil deeds. In these types of supramundane consciousness the wisdom factor (pa?ā), which tends to destroy the roots of Kamma, is predominant; while in the mundane types of consciousness volition (cetanā) which produces Kammic activities is predominant.
What is the criterion of morality according to Buddhism?
The answer is found in the admonition given by the Buddha to young Sāmanera Rāhula.
"If there is a deed, Rāhula, you wish to do, reflect thus: Is this deed conducive to my harm, or to others? harm, or to that of both? Then is this a bad deed entailing suffering. From such a deed you must resist.
"If there is a deed you wish to do, reflect thus: Is this deed not conducive to my harm, nor to others' harm, nor to that of both? Then is this a good deed entailing happiness. Such a deed you must do again and again."
In assessing morality a Buddhist takes into consideration the interests both of himself and others -- animals not excluded.
In the Karaniya Mettā Sutta the Buddha exhorts:
"As the mother protects her only child even at the risk of her own life; even so let one cultivate boundless thoughts of loving-kindness towards all being".
The Dhammapada states:
"All fear punishment, to all life is dear. Comparing others with oneself, let one neither hurt nor kill. "
To understand the exceptionally high standard of morality the Buddha expects from His ideal followers, one must carefully read the Dhammapada, Sigālovāda Sutta, Vyāgghapajja Sutta, Mangala Sutta, Mettā Sutta, Parābhava Sutta, Vasala Sutta, Dhammika Sutta, etc.
As a moral teaching it excels all other ethical systems, but morality is only the beginning and not the end of Buddhism.
In one sense Buddhism is not a philosophy, in another sense it is the philosophy of philosophies.
In one sense Buddhism is not a religion, in another sense it is the religion of religions.
What Buddhism is
Buddhism is neither a metaphysical path nor a ritualistic path.
It is neither sceptical nor dogmatic.
It is neither eternalism nor nihilism.
It is neither self-mortification nor self-indulgence.
It is neither pessimism nor optimism but realism.
It is neither absolutely this-worldly nor other-worldly.
It is not extravert but introvert.
It is not theo-centric but homo-centric.
It is a unique Path of Enlightenment.
The original Pāli term for Buddhism is Dhamma, which, literally, means that which upholds or sustains (him who acts in conformity with its principles and thus prevents him from falling into woeful states). There is no proper English equivalent that exactly conveys the meaning of the Pāli term.
The Dhamma is that which really is. It is the Doctrine of Reality. It is a Means of Deliverance from suffering and Deliverance itself. Whether the Buddhas arise or not the Dhamma exists from all eternity. It is a Buddha that realizes this Dhamma, which ever lies hidden from the ignorant eyes of men, till He, an Enlightened One, comes and compassionately reveals it to the world.
"Whether the Tathāgatas appear or not, O Bhikkhus, it remains a fact, an established principle, a natural law that all conditioned things are transient (anicca), sorrowful (dukkha) and that everything is soulless (anattā). This fact the Tathāgata realizes, understands and when He has realized and understood it, announces, teaches, proclaims, establishes, discloses, analyses, and makes it clear, that all conditioned things are transient, sorrowful, and that everything is soulless."
In the Majjhima Nikāya the Buddha says: "One thing only does the Buddha teach, namely, suffering and the cessation of suffering. "
This is the Doctrine of Reality.
Udāna states: "Just as, O Bhikkhus, the mighty ocean is of one flavour, the flavour of salt, even so, O Bhikkhus, this Dhamma is of one flavour, the flavour of Deliverance (Vimutti).
This is the Means of Deliverance.
This sublime Dhamma is not something apart from oneself. It is purely dependent on oneself and is to be realized by oneself. As such the Buddha exhorts:
"Attadipā viharatha attapatisaranā."
-- Abide with oneself as an island, with oneself as a refuge.
"Dhammadīpā viharatha, dhamma patisaranā, n?ā?a patisaranā "
-- Abide with the Dhamma as an island, with the dhamma as a refuge. Seek not for external refuge.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Saturday, October 4, 2008
■ n [C, U]
● (က) စကားအေခ်အတင္ေျပာျခင္း။ စကားရည္လုပြဲ။ စကားစစ္ထိုးပြဲ။
After a long debate, the House of Commons approved the bill. m a debate on abortion/capital punishment m to open the debate (ie be the first to speak) m the motion under debate (ie being discussed). (ခ) ျငင္းခံုျခင္း။ ေဆြးေႏြးျခင္း။ After much debate, we decided to move to Mandalay. m We had long debates at college about politics. m The importance of this development has been the subject of much/some debate. v ၁။ ~ (about sth) ေဝဖန္ေဆြးေႏြးသည္။ What are they debating about? m The issue/motion was first debated in the House 25 years ago. m We’re just debating what to do next. ၂။ ခ်ီတံုခ်တံု စဥ္းစားသည္။ I debated it for a while, then decided not to go. m I’m debating where to go on holiday. m She debated whether or not to tell him the news. m He debated buying a new car, but didn't in the end. o debater n စကားအေခ်အတင္ေျပာသူ။ အဆိုရွင္။ အေခ်ရွင္။
Debate ရဲ႕ အဘိဓာန္ အဖြင့္ေလးနဲ႔ အတူ အေမရိကန္ ဒုသမၼတေလာင္း ႏွစ္ေယာက္ရဲ႕ စကားစစ္ထိုးပြဲေလး ကို CNN ကူးယူၿပီး ပို႔စ္အျဖစ္တင္ေပးလိုက္ပါတယ္။ အဲဒီ စကားစစ္ထိုးပြဲရဲ႕ အက်ိဳးရလာဒ္ကို ခဏထားလို႔ အေမရိကန္ ႏိုင္ငံၾကီးမွာ မၾကာမတင္ေသာ ကာလမွာ သူတို႔ႏွစ္ေယာက္ထဲက တစ္ေယာက္ကေတာ့ (ဥပေစၧဒက ကံေၾကာင့္ ေသဆံုးမႈမွ တစ္ပါး) က်ိန္းေသေပါက္ ဒုတိယ သမၼတျဖစ္ေတာ့မွာပါ။ အဲဒီလို မျဖစ္ေသးတဲ့ သမၼေလာင္း ႏွစ္ေယာက္ရဲ႕ ႏိုင္ငံရဲ႕ ေပၚလစီေတြနဲ႔ ပါတ္သက္လို႔ ဘယ္သူက ဘာျဖစ္တယ္။ ဘယ္ေနရာမွာေတာ့ အားနည္းခ်က္ရွိတယ္။ ဘယ္ကိစၥေတြမွာ မွားယြင္းခဲ့တယ္ စသည္ျဖင့္ အားသာခ်က္ အားနည္းခ်က္ေတြ ကို ရိုးသားမႈ၊ ပြင့္လင္းမႈ ေတြ အေျခခံၿပီး အေျခအတင္ေျပာဆိုတာကို သေဘာက်လို႔ ပို႔စ္ အျဖစ္တင္လိုက္တာပါ။ အဲဒီလို အေနအထားမ်ိဳးေတြ ဦးဇင္းတို႔ရဲ႕ ဗုဒၶဘာသာတရားေတြ ထြန္းကားပါတယ္ဆို တဲ့ ေရႊျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံၾကီးမွာေကာ မရွိသင့္ဘူးလား။ ႏိုင္ငံေခါင္းေဆာင္ေတြ၊ ႏိုင္ငံေခါင္းေဆာင္ လုပ္မဲ့သူေတြ မရိုးသားသင့္ဘူးလား၊ မပြင့္လင္းသင့္ဘူးလား၊ မလြတ္လပ္သင့္ဘူးလား။ ရိုးသားမႈ ပြင့္လင္းမႈေတြ လြတ္လပ္မႈ၊ တရားမွ်တမႈေတြကို ရိုးသားစြာ၊ ပြင့္လင္းစြာ ထုတ္ေဖၚေျပာဆိုခြင့္၊ ေရးသားခြင့္ေတြ မရွိသင့္ဘူးလား။ အေမရိကန္ ႏိုင္ငံကလူေတြလဲ လူေတြပါပဲ၊ ဦးဇင္းတို႔ ေရႊျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံက လူေတြလဲ လူေတြပါပဲ။ ေဆြမ်ိဳးေပါက္ေဖၚ ေတာ္စပ္ပါတဲ့ တရုတ္ျပည္က လူေတြလဲ လူေတြပါပဲ။ ဒါဆိုဘာေတြ ကြာျခားေနၾကတာပါ လဲ။ ဘာေၾကာင့္ ကြာျခားေနၾကတာပါလဲ။
တိုင္းျပည္တစ္ျပည္မွာ အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္သူနဲ႔၊ အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္ခံ လူ ရယ္လို႔ ႏွစ္မ်ိဳးပဲ ရွိပါတယ္။ အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္တဲ့သူက ဘယ္လို အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္မွာ လဲ ဆိုတဲ့ အေပၚမွာပဲ မူတည္ပါတယ္။ ဒို႔ဖိႏွိပ္ အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္မလား၊ တရားမွ်တစြာ အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္မလား၊ ဥပေဒနဲ႔ အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္မလား၊ ဥပေဒမဲ့ အာဏာနဲ႔ အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္မလား၊ ဓားလွံ လက္နက္ မိုးၿပီး အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္မွာလား၊ ဒုို႔ခ်ည္းပဲ အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္မွာလား၊ ခြဲေ၀ အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္မွာလား၊ ျပည္သူက ေရႊးခ်ယ္ေစတဲ့ စနစ္နဲ႔ အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္မွာလား။ အက်ိဳး အျပစ္ကေတာ့ အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္သူလူေတြရဲ႕ စီမံခန္႔ခြဲမႈ။ တိုင္းသူျပည္သားေတြ အေပၚမွာ ေစတနာထားမႈ စသည့္ အေၾကာင္းတရားမ်ား အားေလ်ာ္စြာ အေကာင္း အဆိုးေတြ ေတြၾကရမွာပါ။
ဆိုလိုခ်င္တာက ဦးဇင္းတို႔ ႏိုင္ငံမွာေရာ တိုင္းျပည္ရဲ႕ အက်ိဳးအတြက္၊ ျပည္သူေတြရဲ႕ အက်ိဳးအတြက္ အထက္ပါ Debate ဆိုတာမ်ိဳးေတြ မရွိသင့္ဘူးလား။
ကိုယ့္အျမင္ေလးေတြ comments ေတြ ထားခဲ့ႏိုင္ပါတယ္။ ဦးဇင္းကေတာ့ ရွိသင့္တယ္လို႔ ထင္ပါတယ္။ ရွိသင့္တယ္ ဆိုရင္ေတာ့ ရွိဘို႔ အတြက္ ဘာေတြ လုိအပ္သလဲ ဆိုတာ ဆက္လက္ ေဆြးေႏြး စဥ္းစားၾကပါကုန္။
Sunday, August 17, 2008
THE BUDDHA'S PARINIBBĀNA (DEATH)
"The sun shines by day. The moon is radiant by night. Armoured shines the warrior King.
Meditating the brāhmana shines.
But all day and night the Buddha shines in glory."
The Buddha was an extraordinary being. Nevertheless He was mortal, subject to disease and decay as are all beings. He was conscious that He would pass away in His eightieth year. Modest as He was He decided to breathe His last not in renowned cities like Sāvatthi or Rājagaha, where His activities were centred, but in a distant and insignificant hamlet like Kusinārā.
In His own words the Buddha was in His eightieth year like "a worn-out cart." Though old in age, yet, being strong in will. He preferred to traverse the long and tardy way on foot accompanied by His favourite disciple, Venerable Ānanda. It may be mentioned that Venerable Sāriputta and Moggallāna, His two chief disciples, predeceased Him. So did Venerable Rāhula and Yasodhārā.
Rājagaha, the capital of Magadha, was the starting point of His last journey.
Before his impending departure from Rājagaha King Ajātasattu, the parricide, contemplating an unwarranted attack on the prosperous Vajjian Republic, sent his Prime Minister to the Buddha to know the Buddha's view about his wicked project.
Conditions of welfare
The Buddha declared that (i) as long as the Vajjians meet frequently and hold many meetings; (2) as long as they meet together in unity, rise in unity and perform their duties in unity; (3) as long as they enact nothing not enacted, abrogate nothing that has already been enacted, act in accordance with the already established ancient Vajjian principles; (4) as long as they support, respect, venerate and honour the Vajjian elders, and pay regard to their worthy speech; (5) as long as no women or girls of their families are detained by force or abduction; (6) as long as they support, respect, venerate, honour those objects of worship -- internal and external -- and do not neglect those righteous ceremonies held before; (7) as long as the rightful protection, defence and support for the Arahants shall be provided by the Vajjians so that Arahants who have not come may enter the realm and those who have entered the realm may live in peace -- so long may the Vajjians be expected not to decline, but to prosper.
Hearing these seven conditions of welfare which the Buddha Himself taught the Vajjians, the Prime Minister, Vassakāra, took leave of the Buddha, fully convinced that the Vajjians could not be overcome by the King of Magadha in battle, without diplomacy or breaking up their alliance.
The Buddha thereupon availed Himself of this opportunity to teach seven similar conditions of welfare mainly for the benefit of His disciples. He summoned all the Bhikkhus in Rājagaha and said:
(1) "As long, O disciples, as the Bhikkhus assemble frequently and hold frequent meetings; (2) as long as the Bhikkhus meet together in unity, rise in unity, and perform the duties of the Sangha in unity; (3) as long as the Bhikkhus shall promulgate nothing that has not been promulgated, abrogate not what has been promulgated, and act in accordance with the already prescribed rules; (4) as long as the Bhikkhus support, respect, venerate and honour those long-ordained Theras of experience, the fathers and leaders of the Order, and respect their worthy speech; (5) as long as the Bhikkhus fall not under the influence of uprisen attachment that leads to repeated births; (6) as long as the Bhikkhus shall delight in forest retreats; (7) as long as the Bhikkhus develop mindfulness within themselves so that disciplined co-celibates who have not come yet may do so and those who are already present may live in peace -- so long may the Bhikkhus be expected not to decline, but to prosper.
As long as these seven conditions of welfare shall continue to exist amongst the Bhikkhus, as long as the Bhikkhus are well-instructed in these conditions -- so long may they be expected not to decline, but to prosper.
With boundless compassion the Buddha enlightened the Bhikkhus on seven other conditions of welfare as follows:
"As long as the Bhikkhus shall not be fond of, or delight in, or engage in, business; as long as the Bhikkhus shall not be fond of, or delight in, or engage in, gossiping; as long as the Bhikkhus shall not be fond of, or delight in sleeping; as long as the Bhikkhus shall not be fond of, or delight in, or indulge in, society; as long as the Bhikkhus shall neither have, nor fall under, the influence of base desires; as long as the Bhikkhus shall not have evil friends or associates and shall not be prone to evil -- so long the Bhikkhus shall not stop at mere lesser, special acquisition without attaining Arahantship."
Furthermore, the Buddha added that as long as the Bhikkhus shall be devout, modest, conscientious, full of learning, persistently energetic, constantly mindful and full of wisdom -- so long may the Bhikkhus be expected not to decline, but to prosper.
Enlightening the Bhikkhus with several other discourses, the Buddha, accompanied by Venerable Ānanda, left Rājagaha and went to Ambalatthika and thence to Nālandā, where He stayed at the Pāvārika mango grove. On this occasion the Venerable Sāriputta approached the Buddha and extolled the wisdom of the Buddha, saying: "Lord, so pleased am I with the Exalted One that methinks there never was, nor will there be, nor is there now, any other ascetic or brahman who is greater and wiser than the Buddha as regards self enlightenment."
The Buddha, who did not approve of such an encomium from a disciple of His, reminded Venerable Sāriputta that he had burst into such a song of ecstasy without fully appreciating the merits of the Buddhas of the past and of the future.
Venerable Sāriputta acknowledged that he had no intimate knowledge of all the supremely Enlightened Ones, but maintained that he was acquainted with the Dhamma lineage, the process through which all attain supreme Buddhahood, that is by overcoming the five Hindrances namely, (i) sense-desires, (ii) ill-will, (iii) sloth and torpor, (iv) restlessness and brooding, (v) indecision; by weakening the strong passions of the heart through wisdom; by thoroughly establishing the mind in the four kinds of Mindfulness; and by rightly developing the seven factors of Enlightenment.
From Nālandā the Buddha proceeded to Pātaligāma where Sunīdha and Vassakāra, the chief ministers of Magadha, were building a fortress to repel the powerful Vajjians.
Here the Buddha resided in an empty house and, perceiving with His supernormal vision thousands of deities haunting the different sites, predicted that Pātaliputta would
become the chief city inasmuch as it is a residence for Ariyas, a trading centre and a place for the interchange of all kinds of wares, but would be subject to three dangers arising from fire, water and dissension.
Hearing of the Buddha's arrival at Pātaligāma, the ministers invited the Buddha and His disciples for a meal at their house. After the meal was over the Buddha exhorted them in these verses:
"Wheresoe'er the prudent man shall take up his abode.
Let him support the brethren there, good men of self- control,
And give the merit of his gifts to the deities who haunt the spot.
Revered, they will revere him: honoured, they honour him again,
Are gracious to him as a mother to her own, her only son.
And the man who has the grace of the gods,
good fortune he beholds."
In honour of His visit to the city they named the gate by which He left "Gotama-Gate", and they desired to name the ferry by which He would cross "Gotama-Ferry", but the Buddha crossed the overflowing Ganges by His psychic powers while the people were busy making preparations to cross.
From the banks of the Ganges He went to Kotigama and thence to the village of Nadika and stayed at the Brick Hall. Thereupon the Venerable Ānanda approached the Buddha and respectfully questioned Him about the future states of several persons who died in that village. The Buddha patiently revealed the destinies of the persons concerned and taught how to acquire the Mirror of Truth so that an Arya disciple endowed therewith may predict of himself thus: "Destroyed for me is birth in a woeful state, animal realm, Peta realm, sorrowful, evil, and low states. A Stream-Winner am I, not subject to fall, assured of final Enlightenment."
The Mirror of the Dhamma (Dhammādāsa)
'What, O Ānanda, is the Mirror of the Dhamma?
"Herein a noble disciple reposes perfect confidence in the Buddha reflecting on His virtues thus:
"Thus, indeed, is the Exalted One, a Worthy One, a fully Enlightened One, Endowed with wisdom and conduct, an Accomplished One, Knower of the worlds, an Incomparable Charioteer for the training of individuals, the Teacher of gods and men, Omniscient, and Holy."
He reposes perfect confidence in the Dhamma reflecting on the characteristics of the Dhamma thus:
"Well expounded is the Dhamma by the Exalted One, to be self-realized, immediately effective, inviting investiga-tion, leading onwards (to Nibbāna), to be understood by the wise, each one for himself."
He reposes perfect confidence in the Sangha reflecting on the virtues of the Sangha thus:
"Of good conduct is the Order of the disciples of the Exalted One; of upright conduct is the Order of the disciples of the Exalted One; of wise conduct is the Order of the disciples of the Exalted One. These four pairs of persons constitute eight individuals. This Order of the disciples of the Exalted One is worthy of gifts, of hospitality, of offerings, of reverence, is an incomparable field of merit to the world."
He becomes endowed with virtuous conduct pleasing to the Aryas, unbroken, intact, unspotted, unblemished, free, praised by the wise, untarnished by desires, conducive to concentration.
From Nadika the Buddha went to the flourishing city of Vesāli and stayed at the grove of Ambapāli, the beautiful courtesan.
Anticipating her visit, the Buddha in order to safeguard His disciples, advised them to be mindful and reflective and taught them the way of mindfulness.
Ambapāli, hearing of the Buddha's arrival at her mango grove, approached the Buddha and respectfully invited Him and His disciples for a meal on the following day. The Buddha accepted her invitation in preference to the invitation of the Licchavi nobles which He received later. Although the Licchavi Nobles offered a large sum of money to obtain from her the opportunity of providing this meal to the Buddha, she politely declined this offer. As invited, the Buddha had His meal at Ambapāli's residence. After the meal Ambapāli, the courtesan, who was a potential Arahant, very generously offered her spacious mango grove to the Buddha and His disciples.
As it was the rainy season the Buddha advised His disciples to spend their Retreat in or around Vesāli, and He Himself decided to spend the Retreat, which was His last and forty-fifth one, at Beluva, a village near Vesāli.
The Buddha's Illness
In this year He had to suffer from a severe sickness, and "sharp pains came upon Him even unto death". With His iron will, mindful and reflective, the Buddha bore them without any complaint.
The Buddha was now conscious that He would soon pass away. But He thought that it would not be proper to pass away without addressing His attendant disciples and giving instructions to the Order. So He decided to subdue His sickness by His will and live by constantly experiencing the bliss of Arahantship.
Immediately after recovery, the Venerable Ānanda approached the Buddha, and expressing his pleasure on His recovery, remarked that he took some little comfort from the thought that the Buddha would not pass away without any instruction about the Order.
The Buddha made a memorable and significant reply which clearly reveals the unique attitude of the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha.
The Buddha's Exhortation
"What, O Ānanda, does the Order of disciples expect of me? I have taught the Dhamma making no distinction between esoteric and exoteric doctrine. In respect of the truths the Tathāgata has no closed fist of a teacher. It may occur to anyone: "It is I who will lead the Order of Bhikkhus," or "The Order of Bhikkhus is dependent upon me," or "It is he who should instruct any matter concerning the Order."
"The Tathāgata, Ānanda, thinks not that it is he who should lead the Order of Bhikkhus, or that the Order is dependent upon him. Why then should He leave instructions in any matter concerning the Order?"
"I, too, Ānanda, am now decrepit, aged, old, advanced in years, and have reached my end. I am in my eightieth year. Just as a worn-out cart is made to move with the aid of thongs, even so methinks the body of the Tathāgata is moved with the aid of thongs. Whenever, Ānanda, the Tathāgata lives plunged in signless mental one-pointedness, by the cessation of certain feelings and unmindful of all objects, then only is the body of the Tathāgata at ease."
"Therefore, Ānanda, be ye islands unto yourselves. Be ye a refuge to yourselves. Seek no external refuge. Live with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge. Betake to no external refuge.
"How, Ānanda, does a Bhikkhu live as an island unto himself, as a refuge unto himself, seeking no external refuge, with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as a refuge, seeking no external refuge?"
"Herein, Ānanda, a Bhikkhu lives strenuous, reflective, watchful, abandoning covetousness in this world, constantly developing mindfulness with respect to body, feelings, consciousness, and Dhamma."
"Whosoever shall live either now or after my death as an island unto oneself, as a refuge unto oneself, seeking no external refuge, with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as a refuge, seeking no external refuge, those Bhikkhus shall be foremost amongst those who are intent on discipline."
Here the Buddha lays special emphasis on the importance of individual striving for purification and deliverance from the ills of life. There is no efficacy in praying to others or in depending on others. One might question why Buddhists should seek refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and the Sangha when the Buddha had explicitly advised His followers not to seek refuge in others. In seeking refuge in the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha) Buddhists only regard the Buddha as an instructor who merely shows the Path of Deliverance, the Dhamma as the only way or means, the Sangha as the living examples of the way of life to be lived. By merely seeking refuge in them Buddhists do not consider that they would gain their deliverance.
Though old and feeble the Buddha not only availed Himself of every opportunity to instruct the Bhikkhus in various ways but also regularly went on His rounds for alms with bowl in hand when there were no private invitations. One day as usual He went in quest of alms in Vesāli and after His meal went with Venerable Ānanda to the Capala Cetiya, and, speaking of the delightfulness of Vesāli and other shrines in the city, addressed the Venerable Ānanda thus:
"Whosoever has cultivated, developed, mastered, made a basis of, experienced, practised, thoroughly acquired the four Means of Accomplishment (Iddhipāda) could, if he so desires, live for an aeon (kappa) or even a little more (kappāvasesam). The Tathāgata, O Ānanda, has cultivated, developed, mastered, made a basis of, experienced, practised, thoroughly acquired the four Means of Accomplishment. If He so desires, the Tathāgata could remain for an aeon or even a little more."
The text adds that "even though a suggestion so evident and so clear was thus given by the Exalted One, the Venerable Ānanda was incapable of comprehending it so as to invite the Buddha to remain for an aeon for the good, benefit, and the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, benefit, and happiness of gods and men".
The Sutta attributes the reason to the fact that the mind of Venerable Ānanda was, at the moment, dominated by Māra the Evil One.
The Buddha Announces His Death
The Buddha appeared on earth to teach the seekers of Truth things as they truly are and a unique path for the deliverance of all ills of life. During His long and successful ministry He fulfilled His noble mission to the satisfaction of both Himself and His followers. In His eightieth year He felt that His work was over. He had given all necessary instructions to His earnest followers -- both the householders and the homeless ones -- and they were not only firmly established in His Teachings but were also capable of expounding them to others. He therefore decided not to control the remainder of His life-span by His will-power and by experiencing the bliss of Arahantship. While residing at the Capala Cetiya the Buddha announced to Venerable Ānanda that He would pass away in three months' time.
Venerable Ānanda instantly recalled the saying of the Buddha and begged of Him to live for a kappa for the good and happiness of all.
"Enough Ānanda, beseech not the Tathāgata. The time for making such a request is now past," was the Buddha's reply.
He then spoke on the fleeting nature of life and went with Venerable Ānanda to the Pinnacled Hall at Mahāvana and requested him to assemble all the Bhikkhus in the neighbourhood of Vesāli.
To the assembled Bhikkhus the Buddha spoke as follows:
"Whatever truths have been expounded to you by me, study them well, practise, cultivate and develop them so that this Holy life may last long and be perpetuated out of compassion for the world, for the good and happiness of the many, for the good and happiness of gods and men".
"What are those truths? They are:
The Four Foundations of Mindfulness,
The Four Kinds of Right Endeavour,
The Four Means of Accomplishment,
The Five Faculties,
The Five Powers,
The Seven Factors of Enlightenment, and
The Noble Eightfold Path."
He then gave the following final exhortation and publicly announced the time of His death to the Sangha.
The Buddha's Last Words
"Behold, O Bhikkhus, now I speak to you. Transient are all conditioned things. Strive on with diligence. The passing away of the Tathāgata will take place before long. At the end of three months from now the Tathāgata will pass away."
"Ripe is my age. Short is my life. Leaving you I shall depart. I have made myself my refuge. O Bhikkhus, be diligent, mindful and virtuous. With well-directed thoughts guard your mind. He who lives heedfully in this Dispensation will escape life's wandering and put an end to suffering. "
Casting His last glance at Vesāli, the Buddha went with Venerable Ānanda to Bhandagama and addressing the Bhikkhus said:
Morality, concentration, wisdom and Deliverance supreme.
These things were realized by the renowned Gotama.
Comprehending them, the Buddha taught the doctrine to the disciples.
The Teacher with sight has put an end to sorrow and has extinguished all passions.
The Four Great References
Passing thence from village to village, the Buddha arrived at Bhoganagara and there taught the Four Great Citations or References (Mahāpadesa) by means of which the Word of the Buddha could be tested and clarified in the following discourse:
(1) A Bhikkhu may say thus:-- From the mouth of the Buddha Himself have I heard, have I received thus: 'This is the Doctrine, this is the Discipline, this is the teaching of the Master?' His words should neither be accepted nor rejected. Without either accepting or rejecting such words, study thoroughly every word and syllable and then put them beside the Discourses (Sutta) and compare them with the Disciplinary Rules (Vinaya). If, when so compared, they do not harmonise with the Discourses and do not agree with the Disciplinary Rules, then you may come to the conclusion. "Certainly this is not the word of the Exalted One, this has been wrongly grasped by the Bhikkhu."
Therefore you should reject it.
If, when compared and contrasted, they harmonise with the Discourses and agree with the Disciplinary Rules, you may come to the conclusion: "Certainly this is the word of the Exalted One, this has correctly been grasped by the Bhikkhu".
Let this be regarded as the First Great Reference.
(2) Again a Bhikkhu may say thus:? 'In such a monastery lives the Sangha together with leading Theras. From the mouth of that Sangha have I heard, have I received thus: 'This is the Doctrine, this is the Discipline, this is the Master's Teaching.' His words should neither be accepted nor rejected. Without either accepting or rejecting such words, study thoroughly every word and syllable and then put them beside the Discourses (Sutta) and compare them with the Disciplinary Rules (Vinaya). If, when so compared, they do not harmonise with the Discourses and do not agree with the Disciplinary Rules, then you may come to the conclusion: 'Certainly this is not the word of the Exalted One, this has been wrongly grasped by the Bhikkhu."
Therefore you should reject it.
If, when compared and contrasted, they harmonise with the Discourses and agree with the Disciplinary Rules, you may come to the conclusion: "Certainly this is the word of the Exalted One, this has correctly been grasped by the Bhikkhu."
Let this be regarded as the second Great Reference.
(3) Again a Bhikkhu may say thus:-- 'In such a monastery dwell many Theras and Bhikkhus of great learning, versed in the teachings, proficient in the Doctrine, Vinaya, Discipline, and Matrices (Mātikā). From the mouth of those Theras have I heard, have I received thus: 'This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teaching of the Master. His words should neither be accepted nor rejected. Without either accepting or rejecting such words, study thoroughly every word and syllable and then put them beside the Discourses (Sutta) and compare them with the Disciplinary Rules (Vinaya). If, when so compared, they do not harmonise with the Discourses and do not agree with the Disciplinary Rules, then you may come to the conclusion: "Certainly this is not the word of the Exalted One, this has been wrongly grasped by the Bhikkhu."
Therefore you should reject it.
If, when compared and contrasted, they harmonise with the Suttas and agree with the Vinaya, then you may come to the conclusion: "Certainly this is the word of the Exalted One, this has been correctly grasped by the Bhikkhu."
Let this be regarded as the Third Great Reference.
(4) Again a Bhikkhu may say thus:? 'In such a monastery lives an elderly Bhikkhu of great learning, versed in the teachings, proficient in the Dhamma, Vinaya, and Matrices. From the mouth of that Thera have I heard, have I received thus: 'This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Master's Teaching.' His words should neither be accepted nor rejected. Without either accepting or rejecting such words, study thoroughly every word and syllable and then put them beside the Discourses (Sutta) and compare them with the Disciplinary Rules (Vinaya). If, when so compared, they do not harmonise with the Discourses and do not agree with the Disciplinary Rules, then you may come to the conclusion: "Certainly this is not the word of the Exalted One, this has been wrongly grasped by the Bhikkhu."
Therefore you should reject it.
If, when compared and contrasted, they harmonise with the Suttas and agree with the Vinaya, then you may come to the conclusion: "Certainly this is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Master's Teachings."
Let this be regarded as the Fourth Great Reference.
These, Bhikkhus, are the Four Great References.
The Buddha's Last Meal
Enlightening the disciples with such edifying discourses, the Buddha proceeded to Pava where the Buddha and His disciples were entertained by Cunda the smith. With great fervour Cunda prepared a special delicious dish called 'Sūkaramaddava'. As advised by the Buddha, Cunda served only the Buddha with the Sūkaramaddava and buried the remainder in the ground.
After the meal the Buddha suffered from an attack of dysentery and sharp pains came upon Him. Calmly He bore them without any complaint.
Though extremely weak and severely ill, the Buddha decided to walk to Kusinārā His last resting place, a distance of about three gāvutas from Pava. In the course of this last journey it is stated that the Buddha had to sit down in about twenty-five places owing to His weakness and illness.
On the way He sat at the foot of a tree and asked Venerable Ānanda to fetch some water as He was feeling thirsty. With difficulty Venerable Ānanda secured some pure water from a streamlet which, a few moments earlier, was flowing fouled and turbid, stirred up by the wheels of five hundred carts.
At that time a man named Pukkusa, approached the Buddha, and expressed his admiration at the serenity of the Buddha, and, hearing a sermon about His imperturbability, offered Him a pair of robes of gold.
As directed by the Buddha, he robed the Buddha with one and Venerable Ānanda with the other.
When Venerable Ānanda placed the pair of robes on the Buddha, to his astonishment, he found the skin of the Buddha exceeding bright, and said ? "How wonderful a thing is it, Lord and how marvellous, that the colour of the skin of the Exalted One should be so clear, so exceeding bright. For when I placed even this pair of robes of burnished gold and ready for wear on the body of the Exalted One, it seemed as if it had lost its splendour."
Thereupon the Buddha explained that on two occasions the colour of the skin of the Tathāgata becomes clear and exceeding bright -- namely on the night on which the Tathāgata attains Buddhahood and on the night the Tathāgata passes away.
He then pronounced that at the third watch of the night on that day He would pass away in the Sāla Grove of the Mallas between the twin Sāla trees, in the vicinity of Kusinārā.
Cunda's Meritorious Meal
He took His last bath in the river Kukuttha and resting a while spoke thus -- "Now it may happen, Ānanda, that some one should stir up remorse in Cunda the smith, saying: "This is evil to thee, Cunda, and loss to thee in that when the Tathāgata had eaten His last meal from thy provisions, then He died." Any such remorse in Cunda the smith should be checked by saying: "This is good to thee, Cunda, and gain to thee, in that when the Tathāgata had eaten His last meal from thy provision, then He died." From the very mouth of the Exalted One, Cunda, have I heard, from His very mouth have I received this saying: "These two offerings of food are of equal fruit, and of equal profit, and of much greater fruit and of much greater profit than any other, and which are the two?
The offering of food which when a Tathāgata has eaten He attains to supreme and perfect insight, and the offering of food which when a Tathāgata has eaten He passes away by that utter cessation in which nothing whatever remains behind -- these two offerings of food are of equal fruit and of equal profit, and of much greater fruit, and of much greater profit than any other.
There has been laid up by Cunda the smith a Kamma redounding to length of life, redounding to good birth, redounding to good fortune, redounding to good fame, redounding to the inheritance of heaven and of sovereign power."
In this way, Ānanda, should be checked any remorse in Cunda the smith."
Uttering these words of consolation out of compassion to the generous donor of His last meal, He went to the Sāla Grove of the Mallas and asked Venerable Ānanda to prepare a couch with the head to the north between the twin Sāla trees. The Buddha laid Himself down on His right side with one leg resting on the other, mindful and self-possessed.
How the Buddha is Honoured
Seeing the Sāla trees blooming with flowers out of season, and other outward demonstrations of piety, the Buddha exhorted His disciples thus:
"It is not thus, Ānanda, that the Tathāgata is respected, reverenced, venerated, honoured, and revered. Whatever Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni, Upāsaka or Upāsika lives in accordance with the Teaching, conducts himself dutifully, and acts righteously, it is he who respects, reverences, venerates, honours, and reveres the Tathāgata with the highest homage. Therefore, Ānanda, should you train yourselves thus -- "Let us live in accordance with the Teaching, dutifully conducting ourselves, and acting righteously."
At this moment the Venerable Upavāna, who was once attendant of the Buddha, was standing in front of the Buddha fanning Him. The Buddha asked Him to stand aside.
Venerable Ānanda wished to know why he was asked to stand aside as he was very serviceable to the Buddha.
The Buddha replied that Devas had assembled in large numbers to see the Tathāgata and they were displeased because he was standing in their way concealing Him.
The Four Sacred Places
The Buddha then spoke of four places, made sacred by His association, which faithful followers should visit with reverence and awe. They are:
1. The birthplace of the Buddha ,
2. The place where the Buddha attained Enlightenment,
3. The place where the Buddha established the Incomparable Wheel of Truth (Dhammacakka), and
4. The place where the Buddha attained Parinibbāna.
"And they", added the Buddha, "who shall die with a believing heart, in the course of their pilgrimage, will be reborn, on the dissolution of their body, after death, in a heavenly state."
Conversion of Subhadda
At that time a wandering ascetic, named Subhadda, was living at Kusinārā. He heard the news that the Ascetic Gotama would attain Parinibbāna in the last watch of the night. And he thought -- I have heard grown-up and elderly teachers, and their teachers, the wandering ascetics, say that seldom and very seldom, indeed, do Exalted, Fully Enlightened Arahants arise in this world. Tonight in the last watch the Ascetic Gotama will attain Parinibbāna. A doubt has arisen in me, and I have confidence in the Ascetic Gotama. Capable, indeed, is the Ascetic Gotama to teach the doctrine so that I may dispel my doubt.
Thereupon Subhadda, the wandering ascetic, went to Upavattana Sāla grove of the Mallas where the Venerable Ānanda was, and approaching him spoke as follows: "I have heard grown-up and elderly teachers and their teachers, the wandering ascetics, say that seldom, and very seldom, indeed, do Exalted, Fully Enlightened Arahants arise in this world. Tonight in the last watch the Ascetic Gotama will attain Parinibbāna. A doubt has arisen in me, and I have confidence in the Ascetic Gotama. Capable, indeed, is the Ascetic Gotama to teach the doctrine so that I may dispel my doubts. Shall I, O Ānanda, obtain a glimpse of the Ascetic Gotama?"
"Enough, friend Subhadda, do not worry the Accomplished One. The Exalted One is wearied," said the Venerable Ānanda.
For the second and third time Subhadda repeated his request, and for the second and third time Venerable Ānanda replied in the same manner.
The Buddha heard the conversation between the Venerable Ānanda and Subhadda, and addressing Ānanda, said:
"Nay, Ānanda, do not prevent Subhadda. Let Subhadda, O Ānanda, behold the Accomplished One. Whatsoever Subhadda will ask of me, all that will be with the desire for knowledge, and not to annoy me. And whatever I shall say in answer he will readily understand."
Thereupon the Venerable Ānanda introduced Subhadda to the Buddha.
Subhadda exchanged friendly greetings with the Buddha and sitting aside said: "There are these ascetics and priests, O Gotama, who are leaders of companies and congregations, who are heads of sects and are well-known, renowned religious teachers, esteemed as good men by the multitude, as, for instance, Pūrana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosāla, Ajita Kesakambali, Pakudha Kaccāyana, Sa?aya Belatthiputta, Nigantha Nātaputta-- have they all, as they themselves claim, thoroughly understood the Truth or not, or have some of them understood. and some not?"
"Let it be, O Subhadda! Trouble not yourself as to whether all or some have realized it or not. I shall teach the doctrine to you. Listen and bear it well in mind. I shall speak."
"So be it, Lord!" replied Subhadda.
The Buddha spoke as follows:
"In whatever Dispensation there exists not the Noble Eightfold Path, neither is the First Samana, nor the Second, nor the Third, nor the Fourth to be found therein. In whatever Dispensation, O Subhadda, there exists the Noble Eightfold Path, there also are to be found the First Samana, the Second Samana, the Third Samana, the Fourth Samana. In this Dispensation, O Subhadda, there exists the Noble Eightfold Path.
"Here, indeed, are found the First Samana, the Second Samana, the Third Samana, and the Fourth Samana. The other foreign schools are empty of Samanas. If, O Subhadda, the disciples live rightly, the world would not be void of Arahants.
"My age was twenty-nine when I went forth as a seeker after what is good. Now one and fifty years are gone since I was ordained. Outside this fold there is not a single ascetic who acts even partly in accordance with this realizable doctrine."
Thereupon Subhadda spoke to the Buddha as follows:
"Excellent, Lord, excellent! It is as if, O Lord, a man were to set upright that which was overturned, or were to reveal that which was hidden, or were to point the way to one who has gone astray, or were to hold a lamp amidst the darkness, so that whoever has eyes may see, even so has the doctrine been expounded in various ways by the Exalted One.
"And I, Lord, seek refuge in the Buddha, the Doctrine, and the Order. May I receive the Lesser and the Higher Ordination in the presence of the Exalted One!"
"Whoever, Subhadda," said the Buddha, "being already committed to the other doctrines desires the Lesser and the Higher 0rdination, remains on probation for four months. At the end of four months, the disciples approving, he is ordained and raised to the status of a Bhikkhu. Nevertheless, on understanding, I make individual exception."
Then said Subhadda:
"If, Lord, those already committed to other doctrines, who desire the Lesser and the Higher Ordination in this Dispensation, remain on probation for four months, I too will remain on probation; and after the lapse of that period, the disciples approving, let me be received into the Order and raised to the status of a Bhikkhu."
Thereupon the Buddha addressed Ānanda and said:
"Then, Ānanda, you may ordain Subhadda."
"So, be it, Lord!" replied Ānanda.
And Subhadda, the wandering ascetic, spoke to the Venerable Ānanda as follows:
"It is a gain to you, O Venerable Ānanda! It is indeed a great gain to you, for you have been anointed by the anointment of discipleship in the presence of the Exalted One by Himself."
Subhadda received in the presence of the Buddha the Lesser and the Higher Ordination.
And in no long time after his Higher Ordination, the Venerable Subhadda, living alone, remote from men, strenuous, energetic, and resolute, realized, in this life itself, by his own intuitive knowledge, the consummation of that incomparable Life of Holiness, and lived abiding in that state for the sake of which sons of noble families rightly leave the householder's life for the homeless life. He perceived that rebirth was ended, completed was the Holy Life, that after this life there was none other.
And the Venerable Subhadda became one of the Arahants. He was the last personal convert of the Buddha.
The Last Words to Ānanda
The Venerable Ānanda desired to know what they should do with the body of the Tathāgata.
The Buddha answered. Do not engage yourselves in honouring the remains of the Tathāgata. Be concerned about your own welfare (i.e. Arahantship). Devote yourselves to your own welfare. Be heedful, be strenuous, and be intent on your own good. There are wise warriors, wise brahmins, wise householders who are firm believers in the Tathāgata. They will do honour to the remains of the Tathāgata.
At the conclusion of these interesting religious talks Venerable Ānanda went aside and stood weeping at the thought: "Alas! I am still a learner with work yet to do. But my Master will finally pass away -- He who is my sympathiser".
The Buddha, noticing his absence, summoned him to His presence and exhorted him thus -- "Enough, O Ānanda! Do not grieve, do not weep. Have I not already told you that we have to separate and divide and sever ourselves from everything that is dear and pleasant to us?
"O Ānanda, you have done much merit. Soon be freed from Defilements."
The Buddha then paid a tribute to Venerable Ānanda, commenting on his salient virtues.
After admonishing Venerable Ānanda in various ways, the Buddha ordered him to enter Kusinārā and inform the Mallas of the impending death of the Tathāgata. Mallas were duly informed, and came weeping with their wives, young men, and maidens, to pay their last respects to the Tathāgata.
The Last Scene
Then the Blessed One addressed Ānanda and said:
"It may be, Ānanda, that you will say thus: 'Without the Teacher is the Sublime Teaching! There is no Teacher for us.' Nay, Ānanda, you should not think thus. Whatever Doctrine and Discipline have been taught and promulgated by me, Ānanda, they will be your Teacher when I am gone."
"Let the Sangha, O Ānanda, if willing, abrogate the lesser and minor rules after my death," remarked the Buddha.
Instead of using the imperative form the Buddha has used the subjunctive in this connection. Had it been His wish that the lesser rules should be abolished, He could have used the imperative. The Buddha foresaw that Venerable Kassapa, presiding over the First Council, would, with the consent of the Sangha, not abrogate any rule hence His use of the subjunctive, states the commentator.
As the Buddha has not clearly stated what these minor rules were and as the Arahants could not come to any decision about them, they preferred not to alter any rule but to retain all intact.
Again the Buddha addressed the disciples and said: "If, O disciples, there be any doubt as to the Buddha, or the Doctrine, or the Order, or the Path, or the Method, question me, and repent not afterwards thinking, -- we were face to face with the Teacher, yet we were not able to question the Exalted One in His presence." When He spoke thus the disciples were silent.
For the second and third time the Buddha addressed the disciples in the same way. And for the second and third time the disciples were silent.
Then the Buddha addressed the disciples and said: "Perhaps it may be out of respect for the Teacher that you do not question me. Let a friend, O disciples, intimate it to another."
Still the disciples were silent.
Thereupon the Venerable Ānanda spoke to the Buddha as follows:
"Wonderful, Lord! Marvellous, Lord! Thus am I pleased with the company of disciples. There is not a single disciple who entertains a doubt or perplexity with regard to the Buddha, the Doctrine, the Order, the Path and the Method."
"You speak out of faith, Ānanda, with regard to this matter. There is knowledge in the Tathāgata, that in this company of disciples there is not a single disciple who entertains a doubt or perplexity with regard to the Doctrine, the Order, the Path and the Method. Of these five hundred disciples, Ānanda, he who is the last is a Stream Winner, not subject to fall but certain and destined for Enlightenment.
Lastly the Buddha addressed the disciples and gave His final exhortation.
"Behold, O disciples, I exhort you. Subject to change are all component things. Strive on with diligence (Vayadhammā samkhārā, Appāmadena sampādetha).
These were the last words of the Blessed One.
The Passing Away
The Buddha attained to the first Ecstasy (Jhāna). Emerging from it, He attained in order to the second, third, and fourth Ecstasies. Emerging from the fourth Ecstasy, He attained to "The Realm of the Infinity of Space" (Akāsāna?āyatana). Emerging from it He attained to "The Realm of the Infinity of Consciousness" (Vi?ānaἦ#257;yatana). Emerging from it, He attained to "The Realm of Nothingness" (Āki?a?āyatana). Emerging from it, He attained to "The Realm of Neither Perception nor Non-perception" (N'eva sa?ā nāsaᦣ257;yatana). Emerging from it, He attained to "The cessation of Perceptions and Sensations". (Sa?āvedayita-Nirodha).
Venerable Ānanda, who had then not developed the Divine Eye, addressed Venerable Anuruddha and said: "O Venerable Anuruddha, the Exalted One has passed away."
"Nay, brother Ānanda, the Exalted One has not passed away but has attained to "The Cessation of Perceptions and Sensations".
Then the Buddha, emerging from "The Cessation of Perceptions and Sensations", attained to "The Realm of Neither Perception nor Non-perception." Emerging from it, He attained to "The Realm of Nothingness." Emerging from it, He attained to "The Realm of the Infinity of Consciousness." Emerging from it, He attained to "The Realm of the Infinity of Space." Emerging from it. He attained to the fourth Ecstasy. Emerging from it, He attained to the third Ecstasy. Emerging from it, He attained to the second Ecstasy. Emerging from it, He attained to the first Ecstasy. Emerging from it, He attained to the second Ecstasy. Emerging from it, He attained to the third Ecstasy. Emerging from it, He attained to the fourth Ecstasy. Emerging from it, and immediately after, the Buddha finally passed away.
THE BUDDHA'S DAILY ROUTINE
"The Lord is awakened. He teaches the Dhamma for awakening."
-- MAJJHIMA NIKĀYA
The Buddha can be considered the most energetic and the most active of all religious teachers that ever lived on earth. The whole day He was occupied with His religious activities except when He was attending to His physical needs. He was methodical and systematic in the performance of His daily duties. His inner life was one of meditation and was concerned with the experiencing of Nibbānic Bliss, while His outer life was one of selfless service for the moral upliftment of the world. Himself enlightened, He endeavoured His best to enlighten others and liberate them from the ills of life.
His day was divided into five parts, namely, (i) The Forenoon Session, (ii) The Afternoon Session, (iii) The First Watch, (iv) The Middle Watch and (v) The Last Watch.
The Forenoon Session
Usually early in the morning He surveys the world with His Divine Eye to see whom he could help. If any person needs His spiritual assistance, uninvited He goes, often on foot, some times by air using His psychic powers, and converts that person to the right path.
As a rule He goes in search of the vicious and the impure, but the pure and the virtuous come in search of Him.
For instance, the Buddha went of His own accord to convert the robber and murderer Angulimāla and the wicked demon Ā1avaka, but pious young Visākhā, generous millionaire Anāthapindika, and intellectual Sāriputta and Moggallāna came up to Him for spiritual guidance.
While rendering such spiritual service to whomsoever it is necessary, if He is not invited to partake of alms by a lay supporter at some particular place, He, before whom Kings prostrated themselves, would go in quest of alms through alleys and streets, with bowl in hand, either alone or with His disciples.
Standing silently at the door of each house, without uttering a word, He collects whatever food is offered and placed in the bowl and returns to the monastery.
Even in His eightieth year when He was old and in indifferent health, He went on His rounds for alms in Vesāli.
Before midday He finishes His meals. Immediately after lunch He daily delivers a short discourse to the people, establishes them in the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts and if any person is spiritually advanced, he is shown the Path to Sainthood.
At times He grants Ordination to them if they seek admission to the Order and then retires to His chamber.
The Afternoon Session
After the noon meal He takes a seat in the monastery and the Bhikkhus assemble to listen to His exposition of the Dhamma. Some approach Him to receive suitable objects of meditation according to their temperaments; others pay their due respects to Him and retire to their cells to spend the afternoon.
After His discourse or exhortation to His disciples, He Himself retires to His private Perfumed Chamber to rest. If He so desires, He lies on His right side and sleeps for a while with mindfulness. On rising, He attains to the Ecstasy of Great Compassion (Mahā Karunā Samāpatti) and surveys, with His Divine Eye, the world, especially the Bhikkhus who retired to solitude for meditation and other disciples in order to give them any spiritual advice that is needed. If the erring ones who need advice happen to be at a distance, there He goes by psychic powers, admonishes them and retires to His chamber.
Towards evening the lay followers flock to Him to hear the Dhamma. Perceiving their innate tendencies and their temperaments with the Buddha-Eye, He preaches to them for about one hour. Each member of the audience, though differently constituted, thinks that the Buddha's sermon is directed in particular to him. Such was the Buddha's method of expounding the Dhamma. As a rule the Buddha converts others by explaining His teachings with homely illustrations and parables, for He appeals more to the intellect than to emotion.
To the average man the Buddha at first speaks of generosity, discipline, and heavenly bliss. To the more advanced He speaks on the evils of material pleasures and on the blessings of renunciation. To the highly advanced He expounds the Four Noble Truths.
On rare occasions as in the case of Angulimāla and Khemā did the Buddha resort to His psychic powers to effect a change of heart in His listeners.
The sublime teachings of the Buddha appealed to both the masses and the intelligentsia alike. A Buddhist poet sings:
"Giving joy to the wise, promoting the intelligence of the middling, and dispelling the darkness of the dull-witted, this speech is for all people."
Both the rich and the poor, the high and the low, renounced their former faiths and embraced the new Message of Peace. The infant Sāsana, which was inaugurated with a nucleus of five ascetics, soon developed into millions and peacefully spread throughout Central India.
The First Watch
This period of the night extends from 6 to 10 p.m. and was exclusively reserved for instruction to Bhikkhus. During this time the Bhikkhus were free to approach the Buddha and get their doubts cleared, question Him on the intricacies of the Dhamma, obtain suitable objects of meditation, and hear the doctrine.
The Middle Watch
During this period which extends from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Celestial Beings such as Devas and Brahmas, who are invisible to the physical eye, approach the Buddha to question Him on the Dhamma. An oft-recurring passage in the Suttas is: "Now when the night was far spent a certain Deva of surpassing splendour came to the Buddha, respectfully saluted Him and stood at a side." Several discourses and answers given to their queries appear in the Samyutta Nikāya.
The Last Watch
The small hours of the morning, extending from 2 to 6 a.m. which comprise the last watch, are divided into four parts.
The first part is spent in pacing up and down (cankamana). This serves as a mild physical exercise to Him. During the second part, that is from 3 to 4 a.m. He mindfully sleeps on His right side. During the third part, that is from 4 to 5 a.m., He attains the state of Arahantship and experiences Nibbānic bliss. For one full hour from 5 to 6 a.m. He attains the Ecstasy of Great Compassion (Mahā Karunāsamāpatti) and radiates thoughts of loving-kindness towards all beings and softens their hearts. At this early hour He surveys the whole world with His Buddha-Eye to see whether He could be of service to any. The virtuous and those that need His help appear vividly before Him though they may live at a remote distance. Out of compassion for them He goes of His own accord and renders necessary spiritual assistance.
The whole day He is fully occupied with His religious duties. Unlike any other living being He sleeps only for one hour at night. For two full hours in the morning and at dawn He pervades the whole world with thoughts of boundless love and brings happiness to millions. Leading a life of voluntary poverty, seeking His alms without inconveniencing any, wandering from place to place for eight months throughout the year preaching His sublime Dhamma, He tirelessly worked for the good and happiness of all till His eightieth year.
According to the Dharmapradipikā the last watch is divided into these four parts.
According to the commentaries the last watch consists of three parts. During the third part the Buddha attains the Ecstasy of Great Compassion.