The Path – April 1886

THE NATURE AND OFFICE OF BUDDHA'S RELIGION

From a dissertation by the Rt. Rev. H. Sumangala, High Priest of Adam's Peak, Ceylon. (1)

What must a religion chiefly reveal? A religion, as such, must for the most part propound what is not generally seen and felt in the nature of sentient beings. It must also proclaim "the ways and means" by which the good of the world is attained. These teachings are essential to a religion, or it would, at best, become only a system of philosophy or a science of nature. We find these two essentials fully treated in the religion of Buddha.

Buddha says: (2) "The world has mounted on the passions and is suspended therefrom — that is, the thoughts of men are hanging down from the lusts and other evils. The whole world is encompassed by decay; and Death overwhelms us all, (consumption and decay ever slowly but steadily creep in and eat into each and everything in existence, and it is here likened to something like land encircled by sea). Nature has subjected us to birth, decay, and death, and the deeds of our past lives are covered by the terrors of death from our view, although the time of their action is not very far removed from our present state of existence. Hence it is that we do not view the scenes of our past births. Human life before it arrives at its final destiny is ever inseparable from Jati, Jara, Marana, etc., (birth, infirmities, death, etc.). As we are at present we are in sorrow and pain, and we have not yet obtained the highest object of our being. It behooves us, therefore, to exert ourselves everytime and by all means to attain to our summum ultimum, and we have to use and practice 'the ways and means' shown in religion in earnestness and integrity."

Now what are they as set forth in Buddhism? "The man who is ever fully in the observance of the precepts of morality; who sees and understands things well and truly; who has perfect and serene command over his thoughts; and who has his mind fixed well in proper contemplation. I say that such a man alone will safely pass over the dreadful torrent of metempsychosis, which is indeed hard to be gone over safely and without meeting with great obstacles and difficulties."

The way to holiness of being, to destruction of sorrows, pain, and sufferings, and to the path to Nirvana and to its attainment, is the starting of memory, on the body, on sensation, on mind, and on the true doctrines, largely discoursed on by the Lord Gautama Buddha. "Men are sanctified by their deeds, their learning, their religious behavior, their morals, and by leading a holy life; they do not become holy by race or wealth." (3)

Buddha has opened up to us a supreme path for sanctification, described in detail in many verses of His Dharma. (4) He says: "Oh Bhikkus! what is the holy path which ought to be walked over to destroy pain and sorrows! It is the ariya path, consisting of eight members or component parts, which are: Right Seeing or correct belief; right Thinking; right Words; right Actions; right Living; right Exertions; right Recollecting; and right Composing of Mind — the practice of Yoga."

Of all the paths this, the eight membered one, is the Supremest; of the Truths, the fourfold one is the highest; of all classes of knowledge, that of Nirvana is the most excellent, and of all bipeds Buddha is the highest and most supremely exalted and enlightened.

I. Right seeing is the correct and full comprehension of the four facts or divisions, which are: Sorrows, the origin of sorrows, the destruction of sorrows, and the ways and means to be used for that destruction. Now this Right seeing may be viewed in two ways, (1) worldly, (2) over worldly, or above the worldly way. The first is understanding, while still we have not overcome our lusts, passions, and desires, the effects of good and bad actions, and that such acts alone brought about the effects; the second is brought about by destroying lust, anger, &c., and rightly comprehending what are known as the "four supreme verities."

II. Right thinking includes pondering on the abandoning of all merely worldly happiness, bad desires, anger, &c., and the cherishing of thoughts to live separated from them all; loathing to take life, and the continued mental exercise of the determination not to hurt a sentient being.

III. Right Speech avoids lying, slandering, uttering rough or vulgar words, and vain babbling or empty talk.

IV. Right Actions is sanctifying the body by refraining from killing, stealing, enjoying unlawful sexual intercourse, &c.

V. Right Living is obtaining a livelihood by being worthily employed, supporting one's self.

VI. Right Exertion is to labor willingly and earnestly to prevent evil thoughts from arising in the mind, nipping even the buds of such thoughts already sprung, and by nourishing good thoughts and by creating morally virtuous ideas when heart and mind are vacant and empty of them.

VII. The seventh is the four above mentioned — in possession.

VIII. The last member includes the four dhyanas. Samma Samadhi, or Right Meditation, is the last member of the Supreme Path. In religion Samadhis are of various natures, but now we will confine ourselves to one particular Samadhi.

It is that state of mind in which dispersed thoughts are brought together and concentrated on one particular object. The chief feature is composure of the mind, and its essential characteristic is the restriction of thoughts from dispersion. Stability aids its sustentation, and undisturbed happiness is its natural result.

The primary stage of this state of mind is known as Upachara Samadhi; (5) the second, or advanced stage, as Uppana Samadhi. (6)

It is also divided into two classes. Lokiya, (7) which any one may enter into; and Lokuttara (8) which can be entered into only by those who are free from worldly desires. The first is a preliminary step to the attainment of the second. For the first, the devotee must give himself up to devotion in the manner prescribed in 3d, 4th, and 5th angas of the Arya astangikamarga chatuparisuddhi silas, and then free himself from the ten worldly troubles, which arise: from building houses; connections with family; excessive gains; the duties of a teacher; from manual work; journeys for another or for one's own gain; sickness of teacher, pupils, and parents; bodily sufferings; constant study, and worldly power and its loss. Being free from these, he must then be acquainted with the systematic process of meditation, instructed by a friend or an eminent preceptor.

Meditation is of two classes. First, that wherein the devotee exercises universal love of mankind, reflects that death is close at hand, and that the human body, being liable to decay, is not to be regarded with consideration. The second is that which applies to a man according to his moral nature. (9) These are forty in number. Taking one let us see how meditation should be practiced.

Man's moral nature is divided into six classes: Sensuous, irascible, ignorant, faithful, discreet, reflective. The first three are evil, and the last three good qualities. If in any man's nature an evil and virtue combine, that which predominates will influence his moral character. The process of meditation, then, is to be decided by the preceptor according to the tendency of the moral character as thus influenced. (10) The devotee then seeks retirement resigned to Buddha.

FOOTNOTES:

1. See Vol. 1, Theosophist. (return to text)

2. Tanhaya uddito loko; jaraya pari varato; Maccuna pihito loko; Dukkhe loko patitthito. (return to text)

3. Kammam vijja dhammoca; Silam jivita muttamam; Etena macca sujjhianti; Na-gottena dhanenava. (return to text)

4. Code of laws. (return to text)

5. Restraining thoughts from being dispersed. (return to text)

6. Effecting complete reconciliation and composure of mind. (return to text)

7. Worldly. (return to text)

8. Superhuman. (return to text)

9. This means the particular kind which each man, because of heredity, education, and class exercises. It is also known as using the path pertaining to the Lodge or Ray, to which the one meditating belongs. — [ED.] (return to text)

10. See Bhagavad-Gita, c. 14. — [ED.] (return to text)


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