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The Blessed One called himself the Physician, Surgeon, King of Righteousness, the Friend, the Lion, the Fisherman with the Net; and the Doctrine was called 'the Dhamma not before heard, ' and the principle that He adopted was 'come and see' and examine. He taught the Four Truths which He called the Buddha's own Doctrine, which was only preached to the Bhikkhus and to the few who had the capacity to comprehend, and who had the upanissaya karma to understand it. In the Four Truths were the eight principles of the Noble Path. He also taught of the Indriyas, balas, bojjhangas, iddihipadas, sammappadhanas, and satipatthanas, in all 37 principles of wisdom leading to Nibbana. He proclaimed the ethics of the householder, and enunciated the doctrine of interdependent causation, the 24 principles or causes that operate in the continuity of skhandas from life to life. He taught the three characteristics, viz., Change, Change ending in Sorrow, the Philosophy of Unattachment. He taught that the atom is undergoing changes so rapidly the naked eye could not detect them. He taught an unending evolution rising higher and higher in the case of the human being who comprehended the truth of the law of causality, rejected animistic belief and asceticism.

The Tathagata came as the merciful saviour to seek and save. He came to save human beings from the sufferings of hell, and to show them the way to eternal happiness. The Blessed One found a disorganized rabble army of ascetics, each one telling that the elephant is like the portion that he had touched with his hand. No one saw the elephant and yet they attempted to describe the animal. He also related the story of the blind leading the blind. A company of blind men, each one holding the stick heard that at a certain place a big feast was going on, when a mischief maker appeared and led them into a jungle and left them there and went his way. The story is told in Udana, and in the Tevijja sutta. The Blessed One said that to go in search of Creator is like the young man having seen a picture of a beautiful girl was pining to have her, and when the friends asked him 'did you see the girl, ' answered no! Men want a thing which they had not seen. In the Samyutta Pabbata vagga, is given the story of the metaphysician who nearly went mad in his attempt to find out a Creator. Searching to find a black cat in a dark room by a blind man may be possible if the cat is there. If the creator is all powerful why should he not give us a better world, where there shall be no strife and hatred and suffering.

The Blessed One saw the eternal strife going on between Brahman and Brahman, between king and king, between father and son, between mother and daughter, between brother and brother, and He traced the cause of the strife to ahamkara. This I-am-ness is begotten of covetousness (trishna), pride (mana) and one-sided view of truth (ditthi).

The Buddha combated the animistic idea of a totemistic soul, an invisible, permanent substance residing within the cavity of the heart, and in its place gave the evolutionary doctrine of a continuous change going higher and higher until the final consummation of Nirvana is reached, when the purified mind no more gathers dross. When that ultimate condition is reached the perfected being is called the perfected God.

The Blessed One analysed the human being and found that he is only a compound of body and mind; the body composed of the four changing elements called the rupaskhandha; and the mind, the chief factor, with its faculties in the form of feelings, perceptions, volitions and cognitions, were called Nama. The sense organs, viz., the eye, car, nose, tongue, body and mind were called ayatanas because they have the power of reproduction according to the law of cause and effect from birth to birth, and according to the karma generated in each life. The present eye is the result of the karma of the past life, and so with the ear, the nose and the tongue and the body. Karma reproduces the sense organs life after life. Man according to Buddhist psychology is the result of his own thought, and thoughts are Karma. Evil thoughts produce evil Karma, good thoughts produce good karma. By the force of Karma and according to the Law of Cause and Effect, an unending evolution continues on for ever, until karma is stopped, which is only possible by means of wisdom. Therefore did the Blessed One say :

“Rupam jirati namagottarn na jirati.”

The Blessed One found that the tyranny of the caste system is keeping the sudras in perpetual slavery. He enunciated the doctrine of metta and ahimsa, universal love and the spirit of mercy, and preached the principles of progress for the elevation of all. The Law makers of the kings in ancient India kept the sudras as helots. Here are a few passages from Parasara:

“The sudra should serve the three higher orders.”

“The sudras should engage themselves in the task of humbly collecting articles that are to he offered in sacrifices.”

“Worn out umbrellas, torn clothes, which are no longer fit for wear should be given to the sudra.”

The millions and millions of Sudras were thus kept down crushed, and no wonder that the compassionate heart of the Blessed One who came to save, should work for the welfare of the Sudras. He therefore abolished caste differentiations in the Bhikkhu Order and trained the Bhikkhus to work for the happiness and welfare of the world in compassion (bahujanahitaya, bahujanasukhaya lokanukampaya atthaya hitaya, sukhaya devamanussanam).

The Blessed One by His divine insight saw that the Brahman of this birth was a sudra in the last birth, and the Brahman of the last birth was born a sudra in this birth. He showed by the power of iddhi how a Brahman had taken birth as a dog, and that a low sudra of the past birth had been born in the family of a prince.

The birth stories of ordinary people who had joined the Order of Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis are given in the Pali book called the Theragatha and the commentary gives the past lives of about 100 Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis. The Buddha's own past lives are given in the Jataka book containing 550 birth accounts.

By love and tenderness and by doing good deeds the Holy One said that however low a man is in this birth he can rise in the next birth, and sometimes even in this birth, by doing good karma. He showed that pride, covetousness and wrong views bring man down, and that the Brahman who covets others' property, and is proud and holding wrong opinions goes down to hell. This doctrine of karma and rebirth revolutionised the doctrine of caste and put a stop to animal sacrifices and caste pride. His Bhikkhus, well clad, trained according to the rigid military rules of discipline, and with no accoutrement except the begging bowl, were ordered to march from village to village preaching that the Buddha has appeared and that the door of Immortality is opened and that all are welcome. The Sudras found salvation under the banner of the Buddha's love ; and the reign of the Law of Righteousness began. The kings of Kosala, Magadha, Avanti became His disciples, and the best of the Brahmans joined the Bhikkhu Order, and the gods came down from heaven to worship the Blessed One. He removed the great bug-bear of Ignorance by teaching the people the Law of Cause and Effect, to do good deeds, to avoid evil if they wanted happiness. The Sankharas of the Brahmanical sasthras consisted in sacrifice and ritualistic observances. The Sankharas of the Good Law were charity, sweet speech, mercy, love and effort to do good deeds. Priestcraft, political chicanery, Brahamanical and Kshatriya pride went down under the biological attacks of the Good Law, which showed that the Brahman the Sudra and the Kshatriya came not out of a pond of fragrant lotuses, nor from the god's mouth ; but from a womb. Men began to see things through. Love reigned; tenderness dawned; kindness was shown to animals. All life was shown as one. No man was a stranger to another. The enemy of this life was a brother in some past life. Every living being is interrelated to the other. In this wise the Blessed One proclaimed the Good Law and the refreshing showers rained down love and established mutual good will. The enunciation of the doctrines of rebirth and of Karma worked marvels.

The doctrine of Karma gave life to the people who accepted it. Under its inspiration karmanta became spiritualised. Every good work in the way of building of hospitals, for man and beast, public roads, lighting the streets, digging tanks for the public good, alms houses, public parks, public resthouses, was an incentive for creating good Karma. Industrialists applied their thinking powers to improve existing methods of locomotion, agriculture, medicine under the inspiration of the noble teachings of the Buddha. Before one began the work he associated his mind with the feeling that he was helping humanity, for the disinterested thought produced good Karma. The commentary called the Sammohavinodani of the Abhidharma Pitaka accentuated the idea of Karma to work as a corollary to the doctrine of Karma to all public works that he started, and caused to be built hospitals for men and beast, sent missionaries to all parts of Asia to preach the doctrine, sent medicinal plants to countries outside India, planted trees giving shade all along public roads, dug tanks, built resthouses and baths. Every idea for the public welfare was associated with the ethic of Karma. Punya karma and punya karmanta became synonymous. This noble ethic of human progress was forgotten under the pagan ethic of fatalism and monotheism, and they began to think of pleasing a deity, which meant that only the priest was benefited, and animal sacrifices were made to please the savage deity. But with the dissemination of the Karma ethic as enunciated by the Blessed One we hope that the superstitions will vanish, and instead of destruction constructiveness based on love will again commence. On the basis of good karma the Blessed One enunciated the dasakusala kamma, viz., charity, good conduct, good thoughts, attending to the wants of others, nursing the sick, parents, elders, etc., doing good work and asking others, nursing the sick, parents, elders, etc., doing good work and asking others to associate therewith, showing sympathy with the good that others are doing, proclaiming the Good Law, listening to the Good Law, and studying the psychological ethics to keep the mind in uprightness. Thus the doctrine of Karma became the inspiring ethic of the thoughtful man. Under this doctrine art flourished, agriculture became a royal industry, and the rich merchants spent their money in meritorious works which brought good fruits here and hereafter. The money extravagantly wasted in bacchanalist revelry was utilised for meritorious purposes. Indolence vanished, inactivity was the dead man's creed, and activity the road to Immortality. The question is how to make the people think? They are so muddleheaded today, and intoxicated by the poisons of opium, whisky, country arrack, and pride that people have lost the power of clear thinking. Armies of muddle-headed people are driven to work, who think as pleasure if they can drown themselves in a pond of intoxicants.

The creator idea went into the back ground. His services were no more required, the priest had found his vocation gone, and the millions of animals found a refuge from the sacrificial knife of the priest, a brotherhood embracing all creatures was established, the prince and peasant sat together ate together, conversed together, and from the centres where the bhikkhus congregated love was diffused east, west, north and south, for its potency was felt for the first time.

The human being born under the dispensation of the Blessed One provided he had his senses in the normal condition, not blind, deaf. dumb, crippled, and free from epileptic disease, and not feeble minded and idiotic, was considered fit for Nirvana. All that he had to do was to exert, earnestly, sincerely, conforming himself to the ethics laid down by the Blessed One, bringing his senses under control, active in his habits, moderate in his diet, given to little sleep, and he was able to transcend the gods. The resolute will, earnest desire, the pure heart, and self-examination were the requisites of the progressive life. Every man who had faith in the Law of Cause and Effect, who did not doubt of a future world was fit to travel in the path. The sceptic who doubted and had no faith in the future world and did not believe in the efficacy of the Good Law was no better than an animal or an insane. Desire for sensual pleasures, hatred, indolence, irritability and doubt were obstacles for psychical progress. Psycho-biological investigation showed that certain individuals were influenced by their own ethical temperaments. The Blessed One therefore laid down certain rules to follow according to temperament. The tendency of one was to show lustful desires, another showed an angry temperament, another was given to indolent habits, another had too much faith, another was too intellectual, and each of these dispositions had to be taken into account when giving lessons for psychological improvement. Forty different kinds of subjects were incorporated in the curriculum of yoga studies. Colour studies played an important part in the development of psychical faculties. These were called karmasthanas. The dead body and the skeleton were selected for psychological experiment. The noblest examples of self-abnegation the heavenly spheres, etc., were selected as subjects to help the mind on its onward march. Love, compassion, delight and equanimity extended to infiniteness were also subjects given to the student to bring the mind to calm. Dietetics was another subject selected as a lesson for the spiritual student. From the low plane of ritual and supplicating prayer where man was considered as a poor, miserable sinner, incapable of progress without the help of the priest, he was raised to the lofty heights of divinity. 'Exert, wake up, be self reliant, plunge without fear, be heroic, he fearless,' such were the expressions used to encourage the student in the upward path. The weak-minded had no place in the battle field of Nirvanic psychology. It is only for the virile, the brave, the resolute that Buddha gave the trumpet call.

Now the Blessed One organized the Aryan Brotherhood, and had it graded into eight categories. They are the Sotapatti path, the Sotapatti fruit ; the Sakadagami path, and the Sakadagami fruit, the Anagami path and the Anagami fruit, the Arhat path, and the Arhat fruit. It was a brotherhood of holiness. The aspirant to Arhatship tries to realize Nirvana in this very life on earth before death; the aspirant to the Anagami post tries to cut off his connection with the earthly and to associate himself with the gods of holiness of the suddhavasa brahmaloka (pure abodes); the Sakadagami makes the effort to return only once to this earth and then realize Nirvana; and the Sotapatti the youngest of the brothers, tries to enjoy life on earth and also in the heavens and after seven births realizes Nirvana. The Arhat ideal was only for the fully ordained monk, the Anagami, Sakadagami and the Sotapatti ideals are for both, laymei and bhikkhus.

Every aspirant had to practise the ten paramitas as well as to walk in the Noble Eightfold Path, and also exert to destroy the sanyojana fetters, which were ten.

The student walking in the Sotapatti path had to exert to destroy three fetters, viz., the animistic superstition that inside the body there is a permanent soul or a ghost, who sees, hears, smells, taste, etc.; the superstition that without austerities and bodily mortifications heaven could not be got; doubt of a future life, or a future world and of the Karma doctrine with its corollary the law of causality. If he succeeds in the path he enjoys the fruit of Sotapatti. He has entered the threshold of Nirvana, and no more can he again enter the samsara. He is a niyato sambodhiparayano. The gates of hell are closed for him for ever. Nirvana is assured for him either in one more birth, or three or seven. The rest of the term of life he may return to the earth, or he may be born in the devalokas and pass onwards from devaloka to devaloka till he realizes Nirvana. Countless billions of years he may enjoy the celestial pleasures of the higher heavens. A Sotapatti never violates the moral law. He is incapable of destroying life, consciously, and he is incapable of dishonest gain, and can never be adulterous, nor can he tell lies, and drink intoxicants. But Sotapatti has not the wisdom of a Sakadagami, not to speak of the higher estates. Thousands of laymen and women in the time of the Blessed One realized the Sotapatti state. Till the end of the Buddhasasana good people who follow the path, and made the effort to destroy the three sanyojanas can reach the Sotapatti state. But they must make the effort. Those who make the effort now are born with better upanissaya karma for the realization of Nirvana in the future births. The very effort to walk in the path by observing the five silas, and the rules of brahmachariya on the sabbath days is a help to create the upanissaya karma. It is necessary when creating good karma in this life the aspirant should have an aim. Aimlessly he should not proceed.

The second grade of saintship is called the Sakadagami. He who enters the Sakadagami path has to observe the five silas, and make the effort to destroy the desire for sensual enjoyment, and avoid anger, hatred, illwill, malice. If the aspirant succeeds in the path he is able to enjoy the fruit of Sakadagami, in which case he has only to return to this earth once only, and after that pass on to Nirvana. Laymen and laywomen by the thousands have enjoyed the fruit of Sakadagami, and there is no reason why today lay people should not make the effort to walk in the path. The opportunity is now. Strenuous individuals should make the effort. It will be good for their progress. The Sakadagami can marry and maintain his family but he will not on any account violate the moral law. He has become an arya pudgala. There are instances where lay people have succeeded in entering heaven at the dying moment by means of upanissya karma.

The third grade of the Anagami is only for the strictly celibate. The brahmachari life is a necessity if the aspirant wishes to walk in the anagami path. He must not have desire for sensual enjoyment and should refrain from exhibiting anger, hatred, illwill. Practically the Anagami has to destroy the five fetters, viz., sakkayaditthi, silabbataparamasa, vicikiccha, kamaraga and patigha. He may live in the family and take care of his parents and carry on a trade, but he win not fix a price for his goods, nor will he ask to pay a fixed price. He will leave the payment to the buyer's discretion. He does the trade for the sake of a living not to make profit. He never retaliates, anger having no place in his mind. He never returns to this earth after death. His place is in the pure abodes of the higher Brahmalokas, where he lives for hundred thousand kalpas helping the world, and inciting good people for further activities, and he is called an Arhanta brahma raja. He is particularly friendly to help people in the Bodhisatva path or those who are trying to realize yoga.

The fourth grade is the Arahat. Only the Bhikkhus wearing the yellow robe and following the strict discipline of Vinaya can aspire to walk in the path. The lay life is too cumbersome. The Bhikkhu who walks in the Arhat path may not succeed in this life, but he is sure to become an Anagami in this very life. Every aspirant for one of the four grades of holiness must practise the paramitas. One who is making effort to become a perfect Buddha or a Pratyeka Buddha should not aim at Arhatship. Those who aspire for Arhatship can only reap the fruit thereof under a Perfect Buddha. Arhatship and Perfect Buddhahood go as their Teacher. A Pratyeka Buddha is not born when a Perfect Buddha appears. The former are only born when the Buddha Dharma disappears from the earth. The Arhat path is the Noble Eightfold Path. Outside the Noble Eightfold Path' there is no Arhatship.

The Arhat path requires that the aspirant should destroy all the ten fetters or make the effort to do so. The five fetters which the Anagami has destroyed plus the five fetters herein enumerated, viz., (ruparaga, aruparaga, mana, uddhacca, and avijja) the desire for a birth in a brahmaloka in bodily form; the desire for birth in the arupabrahmaloka with only consciousness, having no form, pride, vanity and ignorance. The Arhat life is tile perfect life wherein no contamination is to be found. He is free from the limitations of anger, covetousness and foolishness. He has no more Karma left. All Karma is destroyed, all duties done, he lives like the day labourer, not hoping for any reward, neither wishing to live nor wishing to die; but yet active, working for the welfare of the world, for the happiness of all, without thought of personal reward. Such were the saintly Bhikkhus, the holy Disciples of the Blessed one. But there is a tradition that the age of Arhatship is gone, and that now no Arhats exist.

But not so with the remaining three paths, and today for those who wish the religious life, they can either take up the training to be a Sotapatti, or a Sakadagami or an Anagami. What a blessing it would be if there were a number of individuals with high aspirations to follow the path of Sekha.

“Enter the Path! There spring the healing streams,
Quenching all thirst! there bloomth immortal flowers,
Carpeting all the way with joy ! there throng,
Swiftest and sweetest hours!"
- Light of Asia

So there is home for all who wish to lead the saintly life! Here is religion, here is the effort, here are the trees, here are the forests for the strenuous, virile, human being, who wish to make himself happy, and bring happiness to the world, scattering seeds of love and joy in the path of his activities.

The Buddha lying down between the two sala trees in the grove of Upavartana of the Mallan princes, at Kusinara to attain the anupadisesa Nibbana dhatu, passed away to the Infinite, and it is said that He faced the West. At Buddhagaya when the Buddha sat under the shade of the Bodhi Tree, enjoying the bliss of Nirvana, He faced the East, and for two thousand five hundred years, Asia enjoyed the Light which children gentle and mild. Who knows that from now the Radiant Light will not illurnine the West, which has been in preparation for a thousand years. From millions of censers, says R. F. Johnston, author of 'Buddhist China ' the sweet fragrance of inexhaustible incense has gone forth to the shrine of the Blessed One.

May India and the English-speaking world receive the blessing of the all-merciful Tathagata, and turn their hearts to Him with a little love, and happiness will be theirs. May the young men of India wearing the garb of Buddha's love work for the welfare of the neglected millions of this once happy land. May Love and Mercy prevail throughout the world.

Ah! Blessed Lord! Oh High Deliverer!

Ah! Lover! Brother! Guide! Lamp of the Law!

I Take my Refuge in Thy Name and Thee!

I Take My Refuge in Thy Law of Good!

I Take My Refuge in Thy Order!

(Maha Bodhi Journal, Vol. 26 July-Sept 1918)

Dhamma Essay:
Dhamma Without Rebirth? by Bhikkhu Bodhi


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