Ven. Vinayarakkhita Thero
Published in Issue II, July 2013
The Full Moon, which falls in this month on 22nd July, 2013, is of great importance as it commemorates the significant event that took place in India. On this very Full moon day, Buddha set in motion the wheel of Truth (Dhamma) at Isipatana, Sarnath. This discourse came to be known as Dhammachakkapavattana Sutta. It was the occasion when Buddha preached his first sermon to his five ascetic friends Kondanya, Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanama, and Assaji, precisely two months after his enlightenment. This sermon, known as Dhammachakkapavattana sutta comprises the four Noble Truths centered on the universal malady called suffering.
On this memorable day, the Buddha’s Saasana (dispensation) came into existence and then spread not only in India but also through out the world. Thus, Buddhism now is not considered as an Indian religion but as a world religion, which was recognized by the United Nation too on Vesak-2000.
Buddhism is the only Indian religion to become world religion and Buddha the only Indian Guru to become Jagat Guru. Thus, this Purnima is also known as Guru Purnima.
The importance of the four Noble Truths could be gauged by the fact that Buddha himself had said: “It was through not understanding, not penetrating the four Noble Truths, that I, as well as you have wandered so long through the countless rounds of birth”.(DN-16)
The Noble truth of suffering is the fact of every day life in every one’s life. It may be direct or indirect and coarse or subtle. This fact of existence of suffering in every one’s life forms the base for Buddha’s teachings. Having experienced this truth of suffering, Buddha taught the four Noble truths of suffering namely
There is Suffering i.e. Birth is suffering, old age is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering, association with the unpleasant is suffering, dissociation from the pleasant is suffering, one does not get what is desired that too is suffering, in short the five aggregates affected by clinging is suffering.
There is cause for Suffering i.e. Whatever there is greed which causes becoming in the next world, consisting of passionate delight, finding pleasure in this or that, to wit: greed for sensual pleasures, greed for becoming, greed for non-becoming.
There is cessation of Suffering i.e. of that very greed itself, that extinction, which comes through complete detachment, giving up, complete abandonment, release, non-attachment.
There is path leading to the cessation of suffering i.e. The noble eight-fold path to wit: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
In Majjima Nikaya Buddha categorically states that he teaches one thing only, namely Suffering and the path to cessation of Suffering and is not interested in any philosophical or intellectual quest. Though Suffering is pain, it is used as a wet stone to sharpen one’s wisdom and to face the reality accordingly. It is a wise man’s saying that: –
It is easy enough to be pleasant,
when life flows like a sweet song.
But the man worthwhile,
Is the one who can smile;
when things go dead wrong.
Hence, in order to overcome suffering, one has to work patiently and persistently on the Eight-fold path, which forms the fourth Noble truth, and through gradual progress one would ultimately make end of suffering as taught by the Buddha. This Noble eight-fold path is divided into three sections as Sila, Samadhi and Panya. The malady of suffering is not confined to any one particular caste, color, region, religion and nation. It is a universal malady and hence the remedy too must be universal. Thus the path of Sila, Samadhi and Panya, which has no trace of any sectarianism, is the universal remedy for the ills of the world called suffering.
In order to get established in Sila (morality), it is necessary to have complete control over one’s own mind. The mind should be fully restrained and disciplined. For this it is necessary to practice Samadhi (concentration).
Practicing only Sila without Samadhi is like standing on only one leg and straining one’s self. On the other hand Samadhi without Sila is like one leg hanging in air with out support.
Again it is not enough to just concentrate one’s mind. It is also necessary to develop Panya (wisdom). By this Panya, it is possible to eradicate the ingrained habit pattern of the mind that generates, multiplies and accumulates Sankharas (reactions) of Raga (greed) and Dosa (hatred) out of Moha (ignorance) . So if Sila and Samadhi are two legs on which one stands, balances and walks, then Panya is like the eye which enables us to see things as they are, thereby avoiding the dangers and leading us through the safe Noble Eight-fold path, which forms the Fourth Noble Truth of Suffering.
The teaching based on Suffering seems to be pessimistic and definitely people would like to have an optimistic teaching. But, the question is not of pessimism or optimism; it is the question of realism on which the Buddha stresses. His teachings are not CUSTOMER ORIENTED to please individuals or masses but just TRUTH ORIENTED.
In Alagaddupama Sutta (MN-22 BPS), Buddha says: “Both formerly & now what I teach is suffering & the Cessation of suffering. If others abuse, revile, scold, and harass the Tathagata for that, the Tathagata on that account feels no annoyance, bitterness, or dejection of the heart. And if others honor, respect, revere, and venerate the Tathagata on that account feels no delight, joy, or elation of the heart. If others honour, respect, revere, and venerate the Tathagata for that, the Tathagata on that account thinks thus: They perform such services as these for the sake of what had earlier come to be fully understood”. Thus this Noble Truth of suffering may seem to be pessimistic or bitter because of our wrong perception and conditioning but if one compares it with the verifiable facts of day to day life, one will find the profound Truth of it. In the same sutta, Buddha further says: “The Dhamma well proclaimed by me thus, which is clear… free of patchwork, those who are Dhamma followers are all headed for Enlightenment & those who have sufficient faith in me, sufficient love and regards for me, are all headed for heaven”.
Thus July full moon is festival of Truth
On this day Buddha taught the Noble Truth
He preached the Dhamma as Noble Truth
And came to be known as embodiment of Truth.
Noble truth of Suffering is no secret,
It is a truth we refuse to acknowledge.
Truth undermines the Selfness of I, My, Mine
to which we cling so desperately
and shows the impermanence of all phenomena.
Truth is not hidden from us
We are hiding from it.
To develop Buddhist cultural identity, every Buddhist must visit nearest Buddha Vihara on Sundays and Full Moon of every month and not just once in a Blue Moon.
WISH YOU ALL A PIOUS, PEACEFUL & PROSPEROUS GURU PURNIMA.
Venerable Vinayarakkhita Thero,