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founded by S. N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin






Was the Buddha a Pessimist?

-By Acharya S. N. Goenka


"Was the Buddha a Pessimist" is a translation and adaptation of the Hindi "Kyā Buddha Dukkhavādī The?" first published in Nepal in May 2000. In it, Acharya S. N. Goenka, World Teacher of Vipassana, has explained the reasons for fundamental misunderstandings that have evolved about the Buddha and his teaching and has resolved them with lucid examples. These misunderstandings developed when the Buddha's teachings were lost toIndia and most of the world. This was largely due to the disappearance of the applied teaching (the technique of Vipassana). But later even the original words of the Buddha (Pali canonical literature) were less accessible. Thus, misconceptions grew and became firmly entrenched.

Fortunately, this liberating technique was preserved in its pristine purity in Myanmar (Burma) by an unbroken teacher-student tradition. With its revival in India and the world, it is again shedding light on the efficacy of Buddha's real teaching, and bringing great benefit to the humanity. Further, the entire Pali literature along with the commentaries, sub-commentaries, and sub-sub-commentaries has been published and made available inIndia and elsewhere around the world. A CD-ROM containing this literature has been produced with various facilities for research.
This publication will be of interest for those who are practicing the applied teaching of the Buddha as well as for those who are well acquainted with the prevailing views of the past.

The translator and editors are solely responsible for any errors in the present edition.

May all beings be happy!

Vipassana Research Institute

Sabbe sattā sukhī hontu, sabbe hontu ca khemino; Sabbe bhadrāni passantu, mā kiñci dukkhamāgamā. Sukhino vā khemino hontu, sabbasattā bhavantu sukhitattā.

Was the Buddha a Pessimist?

For centuries in India, the Buddha and his teachings have been accused as being pessimistic. To some extent, this notion has also spread outside India to those countries where people are not acquainted with his teaching. Many Western philosophers have been influenced by this concept. In India, many eminent scholars and philosophers have fallen prey to this belief and, as a result, the masses have come to accept it as the truth.

During my own school days, my friends and I also accepted this belief that the Buddha was a pessimist. My mentality in those days was such that wherever I read any work by any poet that emphasised suffering, I would see this as an effect of the Buddha’s pessimism. In a few instances, I had even composed a few pessimistic poems myself. However, I later decided not to continue to author such works, believing that they would create a harmful atmosphere for individuals and society. I decided that if I wrote anything, it would only concern love for my motherland, social upliftment and happiness.

How I was influenced by this belief

When I look back at my childhood, I find that it is when I first came in contact with Arya Samaj that I was influenced by the belief that the Buddha’s teaching is pessimistic. I read Maharshi Dayananda in his famous work Satyarth Prakash where he wrote, "According to the Buddha there is nothing but misery in the entire world—sarvasya saṃsārasya duhkhātmakatvaṃ…. However the truth is that there is happiness as well as misery in the world. It is a falsehood to say that the entire universe is full of misery." This belief, received from Arya Samaj in pre-War Myanmar, became deeply ingrained in my mind and was further strengthened when I came to Indiaduring World War II. In those formative days of my youth I read many articles and commentaries on the pessimistic teaching of the Buddha.

Dr. Radhakrishnan

The writings of Dr. Radhakrishnan, a distinguished philosopher of our times and ex-President of India, further affected my thinking with his observations that:

Insistence on suffering is not peculiar to Buddhism, though the Buddha emphasised it overmuch. In the whole history of thought no one has painted the misery of human existence in blacker colours and with more feeling than the Buddha.

We cannot help feeling that the Buddha overemphasises the dark side of things. The Buddhist view of life seems to be lacking in courage and confidence. Its emphasis on sorrow, if not false, is not true.

There is a tendency in Buddhism to blacken what is dark and darken what is grey. The outlook is restricted on principle to all that is sharp, bitter and painful in life.

At the theoretical level, the vision of Buddhists is limited to the thorny, bitter and miserable aspect of life.

However, despite these earlier intellectual conditionings, it became very clear to me after reading the original words of the Buddha and after experiencing Vipassana (the practical essence of his teaching) that many baseless allegations have been made against the Buddha and his teaching during the last 1000 to 1500 years. This happened because the accusers were not truly familiar with the teaching of the Buddha. Their allegations had no foundation in what the Buddha actually taught.

Over the centuries, the repetition of these false accusations caused them to become stronger and more dogmatic. The teachings of the Buddha were blackened to such an extent that not a trace of the truth about him or his teachings remained in India. While I do not believe that Dr. Radhakrishnan did this deliberately and that these distortions of truth were committed unknowingly, his writings reveal how blemished India’s view of the Buddha had become. I conclude that this happened because the Buddha’s original words had long since disappeared fromIndia. Therefore, the Buddha was quoted out of context, and even worse, things that he never said were put into his mouth. Thus, the fallacious and misleading belief that the Buddha was a pessimist became stronger and stronger.

The extensive collection of the original words of the Buddha (Tipiṭaka) returned to India during the lifetime of Dr Radhakrishnan following the Sixth Synod in Rangoon (Yangon) from 1954-56. The Government of India published the many volumes of the Tipiṭaka through the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara under the able guidance of Ven. Jagdish Kashyap. Dr Radhakrishnan even wrote a common preface to all the books of the Tipiṭaka. However, it is evident that, as the President of India, he was extremely busy and apparently had no time to read and appreciate the contextual meaning of the teachings of the Buddha contained in these books. Otherwise, he would certainly have altered his prior beliefs about the asserted pessimism of the Buddha.

The criticism continues in modern times

The erroneous things said in India about the Buddha and his teaching have continued unabated for more than a thousand years. No one has ever clarified the truth of this matter. On the contrary, more and more people have been reiterating these falsehoods. It is unlikely that the critics were repeating these fallacies out of spite towards the Buddha. Like many scholars, they depended on whatever inaccurate things were already written about the Buddha.

The practice of mischaracterizing even the motivation of the Buddha for seeking the truth continues today. An Indian mystic recently said about the Buddha:

If somebody says that there is nothing but misery in the beginning, middle and the end of human life he is making a mistake.

It is wrong to say that there is misery everywhere by just looking at disease, decay, death, grief and lamentation. It is wrong to say that misery is a noble truth. An intelligent man should refute such a claim and say that misery is not all there is to this existence.

When the Buddha was Prince Siddhartha he saw that there was disease, decay, death, grief and lamentation. Seeing these things he came to the conclusion that this was the truth. He thought that there is ultimately just old age and death. He gave the four Noble Truths based on this belief. According to the Buddha, these four are the ultimate truths in human existence.

Actually, knowledge of misery is not the only ultimate truth.

Human life is neither an everlasting colourful caravan nor a permanent storm of misery. Both are there… this is the truth. The four Noble Truths as taught by the Buddha are not natural ultimate realities.

The pessimistic philosophy (of the Buddha) will never benefit anyone. To remain entangled in pessimism is to continue to carry injury. Mankind’s progress in constructive work was discouraged by the basis of pessimism created 2500 years ago.

Useful is the going forth of only those ascetics who leave home for homelessness with the intention of helping others.

Siddhartha Gautam left home in search of the truth. Therefore his going forth into homelessness was not logical.

"Truth" is the ultimate and fundamental reality, which is always within oneself, with oneself. Therefore it is not necessary to leave home to search for it. It is a wrong theory wherein one leaves home to search for something that can be found within oneself.

That which is changeless is the truth. Therefore, the truth that the Buddha was seeking was not logical.

The Buddha thought that he would go to Magadha to give such a teaching that would challenge the Vedas… He learned Kapil philosophy in the monastery of Sanjay. Why did he go so far away from home to learn Kapil philosophy? This was caused by confusion. The Buddha did not study under any scholar who could have stopped him from renouncing the household life. This had a very bad effect on the times after the Buddha. The Buddhists forced many people to become monks against their wishes and this had an unwanted effect on society. Therefore, the Buddha’s leaving home and becoming a monk was not proper.

Such contemporary misunderstandings are entirely rational in light of their long history in India. I also would have maintained similar views had I not read the original words of the Buddha and seriously practised Vipassana, the practical aspect of his teaching.

False Criticism of Pessimism

One of Arya Samaj’s missionaries had come from India to Mandalay in pre-War Myanmar. In one of his discourses, he glorified and sought to prove the greatness of the Arya Dharma, while explaining how Buddhism is a lesser faith. He said, "The Buddha only taught four things—suffering, the cause of suffering, the eradication of suffering and the path of the eradication of suffering. All he is talking about is suffering! There is no happiness anywhere. There is not a trace of happiness in the Buddha’s teaching. He is a pessimist! The Buddha taught nothing but pessimism. To use the word "Noble" (ārya) for this teaching is wrong. How can suffering be noble? Truth, bliss and absorption are called ārya. In the Buddha’s teaching none of these are present!"

This missionary was a powerful speaker. Being only a teenager I was quite immature, and his speech impressed me. I found his point quite logical: "The Buddha’s teaching is full of misery and totally devoid of happiness." Years later when I realised for myself the true meaning of the four Noble Truths, I became ashamed of my lack of wisdom in my teenage years. While these four Noble Truths of life were expounded in systematic detail by the Buddha, only Vipassana helped me to understand them.

Misery is one truth of life. It arises because of craving and aversion, which in turn arise from taṇhā (tṛśṇā). If these causes are eradicated, then the root cause of misery is eradicated. For this, there is a practical technique, a path, and a way: an Eightfold Path, which teaches one, while living a moral and upright life, to master one’s mind and to develop paññā (experiential wisdom). If one practises paññā (prajñā), then new impurities do not arise in the mind and the old stock of impurities is automatically removed. After all, what is the eradication of suffering? It is a direct result of purifying the mind, the experience of nibbāna (nirvāṇa). Misery, its cause, its eradication and the path of its eradication are called Noble Truths of suffering. The final aim of the teaching of the Buddha is to eradicate all suffering.

The Noble Truth of suffering is explained in four aspects:

Nissaraṇattha: To come out of all the accumulated impurities (defilements)

Vivekattha: To be free from the habit of developing new impurities

Asaṅkhatattha: To experience for oneself the unborn state where nothing arises

Amatattha: To experience for oneself the deathless state where nothing passes away.

It became clear to me through the practice of Vipassana that misery arises the moment the mind is defiled with craving or aversion. And when the defilements are removed, misery passes away. As many defilements are removed, that much misery is eliminated. If all the past-accumulated impurities are eradicated and the habit of making new impurities is broken, then misery is totally eradicated—dukkha-nirodha.

In today’s India nirodha is used to denote "suppression". However, when something is suppressed, it may again raise its head at any time in the future. In contrast, the original meaning of nirodha is "complete uprooting, total eradication". That which cannot arise again is nirodha. Therefore dukkha-nirodha means that dukkha (misery) cannot arise again. It was explained using the example of a palm tree. When a palm tree’s top is cut off, the tree does not get new leaves; it dies. Similarly, the path of total eradication of misery is taught in the fourth Noble Truth. Misery cannot arise again. This was called—Pahino, ucchinnamūlo, tālāvatthukato, anabhāvaṅkato, āyatiṃanuppādadhammo—destroyed, uprooted, like a palm tree whose head is cut off, extinguished, attaining the state of non-arising.

Similarly, today ārya merely denotes a caste or race. However, in the days of the Buddha, ārya denoted not simply caste or race but, rather, qualities. If a person of any race, caste or class—walking on the path of the Dhamma (Universal Law) by the development of morality, mastery over the mind and experiential wisdom—attained the first of the four stages of liberation, he was called an Ārya (a Noble One). This stage is called sotāpanna (stream-enterer)—that is, this person has entered the stream of complete liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Such a person is partially liberated. One is totally freed from the possibility of future lives in the lower worlds because of eradication of all kammas (karmas) that would take one to such lower worlds even though one still has some kammas left which will result in a maximum of seven lives before final liberation from all rebirth. Hence, one is entitled to the epithet of ārya. Continuing the practice of Vipassana, the practitioner successively becomes a sakadāgāmī (once-returner), anāgāmī (non-returner) and finally attains the state of an arahat (fully liberated being). Thus, ārya-satya (Noble Truth) is a truth through the experience of which anyone can become an ārya—noble person.

Linguistic Derivations

The language of the Vedas was called Chāndas at the time of the Buddha. About two centuries after the Buddha, an erudite grammarian by the name of Pāṇini wrote a new grammar and thus created a new language based on the existing language, but quite different from it. It was governed by new rules. The language that was created was called Sanskrit (literally: composed, created, fashioned or artificial).

Ārya was used in the Vedic literature at the time of the Buddha in the qualitative sense, as well as to denote caste. In the literature of Pāṇini’s Sanskrit also, both meanings were applied to ārya. Later on a new meaning was added: the people of the three classes (namely, Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas) started being called ārya.

The Buddha gave his discourses in his mother tongue, which was Kosali. This was the spoken language of thekingdom of Kosala and it was the natural language spoken by the people. It was not an artificially created language like Chāndas or Sanskrit. This Prakrit (literally, ‘natural’) language protected the words of the Buddha for centuries, therefore it was called Pali (‘that which protects’). Years after the Buddha, the entire region of northern India along with the state of Kosala came under the rule of the Magadha Emperor Ashoka, who adopted not only the teaching of the Buddha but also his language. Then the language started to be called Magadhi. In this language, ārya is ariya, an epithet for all those who have attained stages from sotāpanna to arahat.

In the Buddha’s teaching in the vast Pali literature, ariya (ārya) never once denoted caste or race. It always referred to qualities. For example:

Visuddho uttamoti ariyo—one who is pure and supreme is an ārya.

Ariyoti kilesehi ārakā ṭhito parisuddho—one who is far away from the stains of passion, and thus, supremely pure, is an ārya.

Anaye na iriyatiti ariyo—one who does not follow the unwholesome way is an ārya.

Ahiṃsā sabbapāṇānaṃ ariyotiti pavuccati—One who is non-violent towards all beings is an ārya.

Ariyaphalapaṭilābhato ariyoti—One who has attained nibbāna is an ārya.

In contrast, those who are far away from the fruit of ārya (nibbāna) are called puthujjana. It is said—

Hino gammo pothujjaniko anariyo anatthasaṃhito—a non-ārya (anariya) is one who is base, uninitiated (rustic), far away from nibbāna and collects unwholesome states.

Ariyoti putthujjanabhūmi atikkanto—an ārya is one who has crossed the field of putthujjana (one who is separate from the path of Truth).

The Noble Truths (ariyasaccāni) are similarly defined:

Ariyā imāni paṭivijjhanti tasmā ariyasaccānīti vuccantīti—those truths that are known to the ārya are ārya truths (Noble Truths).

Ultimate Truth

Siddhattha Gotama (Sanskrit: Siddhārtha Gautama) attained the ultimate self-enlightenment in Bodh Gaya and became a perfectly Self-enlightened One. Later, he taught the Dhamma to the five Brahmin ascetics from Kapilavatthu in Varanasi. In his first discourse he expounded the practical aspect of the four Noble Truths. There he explained how the four Noble Truths lead to the ultimate reality of nibbāna, which is beyond the senses: eternal, everlasting and permanent. He clarified how the four Noble Truths if practised in all three aspects (in the complete twelve-fold manner) can lead to the experience of the ultimate reality. According to the Buddha’s teaching, all four Noble Truths are also included in any one noble truth. Anyone who goes beyond misery does so by understanding the entire field of misery. Thus, the noble truth of suffering includes the other three.

Within a week, all the five Brahmin ascetics attained complete liberation by practising this benevolent teaching. Thus, they became the first five arahats after the Buddha. Vipassana proved fruitful! From then on the Buddha wandered from the eastern border of Rajasthan to the western border of Bengal, ceaselessly serving people. He taught how to realize these Noble Truths through the practice of Vipassana, resulting in the experience of the eternal truth of nibbāna. Even in his lifetime, thousands of monks and nuns (bhikkhus and bhikkhunis) became arahats. In addition, hundreds of thousands of both bhikkhus and householders had the first experience of the ultimate reality when they became sotāpanna (stream-enterer). Many later became sakadāgāmī and anāgāmī. This technique of Vipassana benefited millions of people by liberating them from suffering in this very life through the realization of the same four Noble Truths.

It was our misfortune that we lost this wonderful technique and all its literature from our country and as a result were deprived of its limitless benefit. Both the practice and the literature disappeared. With the teaching no longer available, people began to criticise it out of ignorance, declaring that they did not accept the noble truth of suffering. In the face of such an unfortunate historical development, how can one blame the Buddha, or the Vipassana that he taught, for the currently accepted misconceptions about his teachings?

Does a Doctor Promote Disease?

An expert doctor comes to examine a sick person. He explains to the sick person: "This is your disease; this is the cause of your disease; and here—I have a medicine for your disease. The medicine will remove the cause of the disease and thus cure the disease." The sick person takes the medicine and becomes healthy. Now, can we say that this doctor is promoting disease or promoting health?

In exactly the same manner, the Buddha explains to the suffering people what their misery is; what the root cause of their misery is; then he gives the solution to eradicate all misery. He clearly explains to them that if they practise the solution, they will come out of their misery. People suffer from impurities of the mind. When they follow this wise man’s advice, they come out of misery because mental impurities are removed. Is it logical to say that the Buddha is promoting misery?

The experience of the Noble Truths gives fruit here and now

It is said of those who directly experienced the Noble Truths:

…Catubbhi vātehi asampakampiyo… yo ariyasaccāni avecca passati.

The ones with direct experience of the Noble Truths remain unshaken by the wind coming from four directions, similar to a properly established protective pillar at the entrance of a town.

It was also said:

Ye ariyasaccāni vibhāvayanti,

Those who have inculcated the Noble Truths,

na te bhavaṃ aṭṭhamādiyanti.

such (stream-enterers) will not take the eighth birth.

In other words, they will attain the full liberation of the state of an arahat within seven lives at most.

The teaching to realise the Noble Truths is not only for monks and nuns. In the Maṅgala-sutta, the Buddha instructed the householders in detail about their true welfare:

Tapo ca brahmacariyaṃ ca, ariyasaccāna dassanaṃ; nibbānasacchikiriyā ca, etaṃ maṅgalamuttamaṃ.
Meditation, living a moral life, experiencing the Noble Truths and realisation of nibbāna are great beatitudes.

Clearly, his teaching is not only for monks but also for householders.

Patanjali on misery

King Pushyamitra Shung ruled about four hundred years after the Buddha. His royal priest, Patanjali, wrote the Yoga Sutra based on Vipassana. He used synonyms of the words used by the Buddha for the four Noble Truths. Patanjali used heya, hetu, hāna and upāya. These are equivalent to the four Noble Truths of the Buddha. Would one call Patanjali a pessimist because of this? Patanjali even said,

"Duhkhameva sarvaṃ vivekinah." (Yoga Sutra 2.15)

Every serious meditator experiences that the entire field of the cycle of birth and death is misery. However, most importantly, one also knows that there is a way out of this misery. How wrong it is to call the Buddha a preacher of misery when he has actually given us a way out of all misery!

Spread of Falsehood

The loss of Pali literature and its practical aspect of Vipassana from India lead to much fallacious criticism about the Buddha and his teaching. This process has continued unabated for more than a thousand years. People have become greatly confused by it. Otherwise how could a widely respected scholarly mystic with a large following inIndia and abroad say—

Human life is neither an everlasting colourful caravan nor a permanent storm of misery. Both are present; this is the truth.

As if the Buddha had no knowledge of the two states! It has also been incorrectly said about the Buddha’s teaching that "There is nothing but misery in the beginning, middle and the end of human life," while the Buddha actually said more than once that we experience both happiness and misery in life. He said—Dukkhassantaraṃsukhaṃ—pain is followed by pleasure, and Sukhassantaraṃ dukkhaṃ—pleasure is followed by pain.

Thus, pleasure and pain follow each other as day follows night. This cycle of existence of pain-pleasure and pleasure-pain has been going on for so long! We always like the pleasure that comes after the pain. However this pleasure always changes into pain. And this pain is far more distressing after the elation of a temporary pleasure. This distressing cycle goes on due to saṅkhāras (conditioning, karmas) born of taṇhā (craving and aversion). Therefore was the Buddha wrong in saying sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā—all conditionings are suffering?

All spiritual traditions of India think of the cycle of birth and death as suffering. When the cycle is regarded as suffering, should not the cause of this cycle also be regarded as suffering? When the Buddha discovered the cause of suffering and said that this cause (the saṅkhāras born of craving and aversion) was also suffering, his entire teaching was censured with the label sarvaṃ duhkhaṃ, sarvaṃ duhkhaṃ—all misery, all misery. And this misrepresentation was applied to a teaching whose sole aim is the opposite of misery: total liberation from the cycle of birth and death, and attainment of eternal, ultimate happiness!

This attainment of ultimate liberation is the aim of all Eastern spiritual traditions. The Buddha taught a method that actually takes one to this state where visaṅkhāragataṃ cittaṃ—the mind is freed of all conditioning, and taṇhānaṃ khayamajjhagā—all taṇhā of craving and aversion is destroyed. No new conditionings are generated that will cause new births. Khiṇaṃ purāṇaṃ navaṃ natthi sambhavaṃ—all old conditionings are eradicated and new ones cannot be made. The meditator becomes totally free from the cycle of birth and death.

The Buddha diagnosed and explained the entire cycle of becoming—the inexorable process of constantly changing pain and pleasure, and the root cause of this relentless cycle. He gave the panacea of Vipassana that liberates us from this cycle and takes us to ultimate, everlasting happiness. It is clear that this great teacher of teachers who is known all over the world for his compassionate nature was falsely accused of promulgating misery. Our welfare and the welfare of all humanity lies in not repeating this falsehood.

Happiness and Welfare of Many

The Indian mystic mentioned earlier also criticised the root motivation for the going forth of Prince Siddhattha Gotama:

Useful is the going forth of only those ascetics who leave home for homelessness with the intention of helping others. Siddhartha Gautama left home in search of the truth. Therefore, his going forth into homelessness was not logical.

In other words, the assertion is that the Buddha did not leave home to help others; he chose homelessness only to satisfy his curiosity or to serve himself and, therefore, his going forth was not logical or beneficial. It was a sad surprise for me to come across this comment. Even esteemed scholars did not know much about the facts of the Buddha’s life. This is because the words of the Buddha have not been available in India for millennia.

When Prince Siddhattha grasped the realities of old age, disease and death, he was troubled but not just because he himself would one day have to endure this suffering. The truth is that he developed immense compassion for the countless beings who suffer these miseries. Then the question arose in his mind: is there a way out of this misery for all beings? He was confident that—

Yathāpi dukkhe vijjante, sukhaṃ nāmāpi vijjati,
Where so many miseries exist, there also exists (ultimate) happiness;
Evaṃ eva jāti vijjante, ajātīpi icchitabbakaṃ;
where (repeated) births exist, there also exists the desired state of unborn;
Evaṃ kilesapariruddho, vijjamāne sive pathe,
for those encumbered by afflictions due to past deeds, there is a Noble Path of deliverance;
Pariyesissāmi taṃ maggaṃ bhavato parimuttiyā.

I want to find out that Path which gives liberation from the cycle of becoming.

He did not investigate the path of liberation only for himself, but to help all beings afflicted in the ocean of saṃsāra.

Kiṃ me ekena tiṇṇena, purisena thāmadassinā; Sabbaññutaṃ pāpuṇitvā, santāressaṃ sadevakaṃ.

What is the use of I alone gaining liberation and realising the truth through such strenuous efforts? After attaining perfect enlightenment, I should become helpful to men and gods in their liberation.

It was natural that he had this intention. It was because of this wholesome volition that he went through so many lives as a Bodhisatta and was fulfilling his pāramis (merits, qualities) by helping those with whom he came in contact.

Now this was the last life of that Bodhisatta. By attaining enlightenment he became liberated and helped others to get liberated. Obviously, it was of primary importance to liberate himself. How can a blind man show the way to another blind man? How can a handicapped person help another handicapped person? How can one ensnared in a trap help other entrapped ones to free themselves? The aim to leave the householder’s life was not just to fulfil his curiosity about the ultimate truth but to liberate himself in order to also help many others. Therefore, it is incorrect and most unfortunate to imply that the Buddha chose the life of homelessness to serve himself.

Truth is within: Why leave home to find it?

One more criticism commonly levelled against the Buddha is that there was no need for him to leave the householder’s life to search for liberation. It is held that the ultimate truth of reality is within each person. However, this charge does not take into account the fact that the path to experience ultimate reality within oneself had been lost. Therefore, it was necessary to search for and rediscover the technique. Had Vipassana been available at the time, there would have been no need to rediscover it. However, an Enlightened One arises only at a time when the technique of Vipassana is lost and only various jhānas (absorption or concentration techniques, encompassing mundane jhānas up to the eighth jhāna) remain. These jhānas are also to be found within ourselves and can be misleading and delusionary. People take the bliss of any one of these jhānas to be the ultimate happiness, and do not practise to go beyond it. The technique of Vipassana that takes one to the state beyond the mundane field of all senses, including the mind, gets lost. A Bodhisatta rediscovers it through his own efforts.

It is also worth noting that after witnessing the three miserable states of life, Prince Siddhattha saw a samaṇa (shramaṇa; an ascetic, especially one who believes in his own efforts for liberation). How is it possible that the Prince—tormented by his comprehension of the misery inherent in the three states—did not talk to this samaṇa, who appeared so serene? The Prince may have learned from the ascetic that the ultimate truth is to be sought within oneself. However, one has to practise methodically, by following a systematic meditation technique. It cannot be done merely by staying at home. To practise it, one needed to leave the householder’s life and go to various teachers of the Samaṇa tradition.

The influence of the Samaṇa tradition was very evident in Kapilavastu at the time of the Buddha. It had pagodas commemorating two of the three Buddhas before Gotama Buddha in this aeon (Kakusandha and Koṇāgamana). Although Vipassana meditation of the Samaṇa tradition had been forgotten by that time, various concentration techniques (jhānas) had continued. Āḷāra Kālāma of the Kālāma republic, which lay to the east of Sākyan kingdom, was a famous teacher of jhānas. While the main centre of his teaching was in Magadha, there was a branch in Kapilavastu also. Prince Siddhattha might have learned from the samaṇa he encountered that Āḷāra Kālāma was staying in Magadha at that time.

To learn the technique of introspection, it was necessary for Prince Siddhattha to leave home. So he went toMagadha to learn absorption concentrations up through the seventh jhāna. Through this practice he experienced the bliss of deep absorption but not of ultimate liberation. Therefore he went to another teacher of the Samaṇa tradition, Uddaka Rāmaputta, and learned the eighth jhāna. Even this, the highest practice known at the time, did not result in his liberation from all suffering. After this, he tried extreme, self-tormenting penances for six years. These also proved futile. Then, through his own efforts, he discovered the Noble Eightfold Path of morality, concentration and experiential wisdom. Through this Path he attained perfect enlightenment and became a sammāsambuddha. Perfect enlightenment is not achieved by reading scriptures or indulging in the intellectual acrobatics of philosophical beliefs. The Buddha could not receive it from any teacher because at that time the path of liberation had been lost to the world.

When someone attains enlightenment, his heart and mind become full of infinite loving kindness and infinite compassion. He wants to distribute this benevolent practice to more and more people. This compassionate volition brought him to the Deer Park of Sarnath near Varanasi where he gave the Teaching for the first time to the five ascetics who had come from Kapilavastu. They became arahats (literally, those who have destroyed all their defilements) and tasted true lasting happiness. He stayed there for three months and showed the path of liberation to fifty-five more seekers. They also became arahats, fully enlightened.

Thus, when sixty people had become arahats, he declared to them the well-known historic exhortation:

Caratha, bhikkhave, cārikaṃ—Go your ways, O monks!

Bahujanahitāya bahujanasukhāya lokānukampāya—for the welfare of many, for the benefit of many, out of compassion for the world.

He declared, "Let not two go in the same direction". Two bhikkhus should not travel together. They should go separately to different places so that more and more people can learn, and benefit from, Dhamma. He exhorted them to: "Teach the Dhamma that is beneficial in the beginning, beneficial in the middle and beneficial in the end; absolutely complete and totally pure."

If one practises only sīla (morality), the starting point of this pure path of Dhamma, one becomes happy in this life and gets divine happiness after death. If one practises the middle part of Dhamma, samādhi (concentration of mind), one enjoys the bliss of absorption and after death gets brahmic happiness. And if one gets rid of all the kammas (conditionings) through the practice of paññā (penetrating wisdom)—the final part of the Path—then one experiences the infinite happiness of nibbāna and after death attains the eternal, permanent and deathless state. In this manner the Noble Eightfold Path is absolutely complete; there is no need to add anything to it. It is totally pure; it contains no impurity that needs to be removed.

In this manner, these sixty arahats, with compassionate hearts, helped many others throughout their lives. They had only one aim: Bahujanahitāya bahujanasukhāya—the benefit and happiness of many.

In the remaining forty-five years of his life, the Buddha trained thousands of arahats to guide others; and he himself travelled ceaselessly to many places to distribute the nectar of Dhamma. His entire life was spent in distributing happiness. This Samaṇa tradition continued to teach Vipassana which liberated innumerable people for centuries after the Buddha.

These unfortunate comments—that the Buddha’s motive in leaving home was not to help others; that he should have sought the ultimate truth while remaining at home—how will they be viewed by those people of the neighbouring countries of India who know the facts about benevolent Vipassana? By those who know the words of the Buddha and know that he worked day and night for the good, benefit and happiness of many? We are making a laughing stock of ourselves in front of our neighbours who know the truth about the Buddha. Let us not repeat these mistakes for the sake of our welfare and our honour.

The Buddha has also been criticised for leaving behind his beautiful young wife and new-born child and his tearful parents. The critics forget that Siddhattha, after attaining enlightenment, helped them get the infinite happiness of liberation. If he had remained at home, he would have been able to give them only the lesser happiness of worldly comforts and companionship. Instead, his entire family attained full liberation. For centuries serious Vipassana meditators have known through personal experience that this happiness of liberation from defilements is far superior to worldly happiness.

Dispenser of Happiness

From the assertion that his philosophy and teachings were nothing but suffering and misery, the implication is that the Buddha himself was miserable and unhappy. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a perfectly Enlightened One, the Buddha had come out of all the miseries of the world, and lived a life full of contentment and infinite happiness in every situation. To others also he gave nothing but happiness.

The Buddha was always happy

Once he was sleeping on a bed of dry leaves fallen from a tree on a cattle path in Aḷavī. At that time an Āḷavaka prince named Hatthaka had set out for a stroll. When he saw the Buddha, he asked, "Venerable sir, did you sleep happily?"

The Buddha replied, "Yes, young man, I slept well. I am one of those people in the world who sleep happily."

To this Hatthaka said, "This is a cold autumn night, in the season of snowfall. The hooves of cows have made the land coarse and uneven. The bed of leaves is thin. There are very few leaves on the tree. A cold wind is blowing from all directions and you have but tattered clothes on you. How could you sleep happily?"

The Buddha replied, "A householder or a son of a householder sleeps in a proper house on a soft bed with pillows and blankets. However, the fire of craving for sensual pleasure may be burning inside him. In that case, smouldering in the heat of desire, he sleeps in misery. A Buddha has extinguished all his craving—destroyed it, uprooted it, put an end to it forever, like the severed trunk of a palm tree, from which new leaves cannot grow. Craving does not exist in the Buddha. It cannot arise in a Buddha. The Buddha is an arahat. An arahat always sleeps happily."

A similar incident:

When Anāthapiṇḍika went to see the Buddha in Rājagaha for the first time it was very late in the night. The Buddha was taking a walk in the open. Anāthapiṇḍika asked him,

"Venerable sir, Exalted One, did you sleep happily?"

The Buddha replied:



Sabbadā ve sukhaṃ seti, brāhmaṇo parinibbuto; Yo na limpati kāmesu, sītibhūto nirūpadhi.


Detached and dissociated from all sensual cravings and cooled, the brāhmaṇa (arahat) having experienced nibbāna always sleeps happily.

Then he added—



Sabbā āsattiyo chetvā, vineyya hadaye daraṃ; Upasanto sukhaṃ seti, santiṃ pappuyya cetasā.


Having destroyed all desire, having removed fear from the heart, having acquired true peace of mind, a liberated detached arahat indeed sleeps happily.

Not only arahats, every follower of Dhamma sleeps happily. Therefore it is said:

Dhammacārī sukhaṃ seti.

A practitioner of Dhamma sleeps happily.

Ascetics who have renounced the worldly life and are steadfast on the path of Dhamma always sleep happily:sukha supanti muniyo.

Everyone whose mind vibrates with the thrilling rapture of Dhamma certainly sleeps happily: Dhammapīti sukhaṃseti, vippasannena cetasā.

Well contented with the ambrosia of Dhamma (one) always sleeps happily: sukhito dhammarasena tappito.

A Buddha is dhammabhūto (Dhamma personified), brahmabhūto (brahma personified); completely cooled. He always sleeps happily. All the arahats who followed his teaching and attained liberation achieved happiness.

One more example:

Bhaddiya was from the Sākyan royal family. He was ordained by the Buddha. He often uttered the words "Aho sukha, aho sukha!" ("O happiness, O happiness!") spontaneously under the shade of a tree or in the darkness of his meditation cell.

The Buddha called him and asked him, "Bhaddiya, why do you utter these joyous words?"

Bhaddiya answered, "Venerable sir, earlier when I was a king, the royal guards were constantly near me—whether I was in my private chambers or outside; in the city or outside its limits; in the district or beyond the district. Venerable sir, I lived hidden behind these guards with constant fear and worry in my mind. Now, on the other hand, see! I live alone in the jungle, at the root of a tree or in a cell, always free from fear, serene, free from doubt, not craving anything, peaceful and trusting in mind, satisfied with whatever I get through alms. Venerable sir, observing this change in me, I utter these words of joy: "Aho sukha, aho sukha!".

A disciple of the Buddha always dwells happy.


Aḍahyamānena kāyena, aḍahyamānena cetasā; Divā vā yadi vā rattiṃ, sukhaṃ viharati tādiso.

He experiences the burning of sensual craving in neither mind nor body. Thus, day and night he lives happily.

Arahat bhikkhu Aṅgulimāla, who had become liberated proclaimed:

Sukhaṃ sayāmi ṭhāyāmi, sukhaṃ kappemi jīvitaṃ; Ahatthapāso mārassa, aho satthānukampito.

I sleep happily, dwell happily and spend my life in happiness. I am free from the bondage of death. Ah, this happened because of the Lord’s compassion!

As long as there is the burning of craving or anger, there is no happiness. One lives a happy life only after gaining liberation from craving and anger. Anyone who generates anger becomes miserable. But with the practice of Vipassana as taught by the Buddha, the same person—

Kodhaṃ chetvā sukhaṃ seti, kodhaṃ chetvā na socati.

Having put an end to anger, sleeps happily; having put an end to anger, lives without grief.

Eternal happiness of nibbāna

Hārita was a bhikkhu who had gone forth from a Brahmin clan of Sāvatthi. These are his delightful words upon attaining liberation –

Susukhaṃ vata nibbānaṃ, sammāsambuddhadesitaṃ; Asokaṃ virajaṃ khemaṃ, yattha dukkhaṃ nirujjhati.

Indeed, the nibbāna taught by the Perfectly Enlightened One is ultimate happiness. It is without grief, without blemish, secure. All miseries completely and finally end there.

Joyful path to true happiness

Aggika Bhāradvāja, a Brahmin from Ukaṭṭhā, was a worshipper of fire. He used to undergo severe penances in the jungle by torturing his body. After coming in contact with the Buddha, he learned Vipassana. And after a few days’ practice of the technique he became liberated and attained the stage of arahat. When friends asked him about it, he replied,

Yaṃ sukhena sukhaṃ laddhaṃ, passa dhammasudhammataṃ; Tisso vijjā anupattā, kataṃ buddhassa sāsanaṃ.

(Leaving the path of torture) I have attained (the ultimate) happiness (of nibbāna) using this joyful method. Behold the greatness of Dhamma! (Reaching the state of an arahat) I have attained the three supernatural powers. I have completed the practice of the Buddha’s teaching!

Happiness even for householders

When a householder established in the teaching of the Buddha gave away his daughter in marriage, he gave her this advice:

Sit happily; eat happily; sleep happily.

And he explained how to do it: To fulfil the responsibilities of a daughter-in-law in the new home is conducive to happiness. If one’s elders are standing, one should: take a seat only after they have sat down; take meals only after serving food to the elders; and go to bed only after serving and fulfilling the needs of the elders in the family—these are all conducive to happiness.

For householders, the words of the Buddha are full of abundant benediction for their happiness.

Some examples:

Sukhā metteyyatā loke, atho petteyyatā sukhā.

Serving one’s mother and father results in happiness in the world.

Sukhāṃ yāvajarāsīlaṃ—Following morality until old age brings happiness.

Sukhā saddhāpatiṭṭhitā—Having confidence in the Truth brings happiness.

Sukho paññāya paṭilābho—Development of wisdom brings happiness.

Pāpānaṃ akaraṇaṃ sukhaṃ—Abstaining from evil brings happiness.

Athamhi jātamhi sukhāsahāyā—Help from friends and relations when one is in need brings happiness.

Tuṭṭhī sukhāyā itarītarena—Remaining content with what one has brings happiness.

Puññaṃ sukhaṃ jīvitasaṅkhyamhi—Meritorious deeds bring happiness even after death.

Sabbassa dukkhassa sukhaṃ pahānaṃ—Eradicating all suffering (through the practice of Vipassana) brings happiness.

It is clear that the Buddha’s teaching conveyed not only the ultimate happiness of liberation from the cycle of birth and death, but also what brings happiness in mundane life. How misguided to call him a pessimist!

A Buddha arises in the world to distribute happiness.

Buddho loke samuppanno, asamo ekapuggalo; So pakāseti saddhammaṃ, amataṃ sukhamuttamaṃ.

The peerless, remarkable Buddha arises in the world and brings into light the Truth, the Dhamma. The Buddha brings into light eternal and supreme happiness.

Therefore it is said:

Sukho buddhānaṃ uppādo, sukhā saddhammadesanā; Sukhā saṅghassa sāmaggī, samaggānaṃ tapo sukho.

Happy is the arising of a Buddha, happy is the teaching of Dhamma, happy is the coming together of Saṅgha and happy it is to meditate together!

When a Buddha arises, he distributes nothing but happiness.

What to talk of a Buddha, even the arising of any saint in the world is rare:

Dullabho purusājañño, na so sabbatthajāyati.

Rare is a saint in this world. He does not take birth everywhere.

Yattha so jāyato dhīro, taṃ kulaṃ sukhamevatī.

Where a saintly person is born, that clan’s happiness increases.

An ordinary virtuous person is a cause of welfare of his clan. However a Buddha is a cause of welfare for all humanity. He preaches the benevolent Teaching, by following which people can live peaceful and happy lives, full of the truth-based Dhamma.

Dhammārāmo dhammarato, dhammaṃ anuvicintayaṃ; Dhammaṃ anussaraṃ bhikkhu, saddhammā na parihāyati.

Living Dhamma, engrossed in Dhamma, thinking only of Dhamma and always mindful of Dhamma, a meditator bhikkhu never leaves the path of the truth-based Dhamma.

Such a meditator monk is:

Santakāyo santavāco, santavā susamāhito; Vantalokāmiso bhikkhu, upasanto ti pavuccati.

Peaceful in body, peaceful in speech, master of a concentrated mind, leaving behind the worldly blemishes; such a peaceful bhikkhu is truly called a "calmed one".

One, who is thus calmed, lives happily and sleeps happily.

Upasanto sukhaṃ seti.

The "calmed one" always sleeps happily.

One who has attained ultimate peace has attained ultimate happiness. Ultimate peace is ultimate happiness. One who has attained nibbāna has experienced the ultimate bliss.

Natthi santi paraṃ sukhaṃ.

There is no happiness greater than the peace of nibbāna.

Such meditators having attained ultimate peace live happily even in adverse circumstances.

Susukhaṃ vata jīvāma

We live happily;

Veriyesu averiyo

Without enmity among enemies;

Āturesu anāturo

Without affliction among the afflicted;

Ussukesu anussako

Without attachment among those with attachment.

How does one attain this state of ultimate bliss?

Pavivekarasaṃ pītvā, rasaṃ upasamassa ca.

Solitary meditation and drinking deeply the peace that comes from a serene mind.

Niddaro hoti nippāpo, dhammapītirasaṃ pivaṃ.

Enraptured in the joy of Dhamma, a meditator becomes fearless and without any evil.

Such a meditator always lives happily. One who is without enmity becomes fearless. If one has a violent mind, full of enmity, then he will suffer the painful affliction that comes from hatred.

Yato yato hiṃsamano nivattati, tato tato sammati evaṃ dukkhaṃ.

Whenever the mind gives up violence, misery gets extinguished.

When misery is eradicated, life is full of happiness. To attain this blissful peace, it is essential to undertake meditation. One must meditate in a solitary cell:

Suññāgāraṃ paviṭṭhassa, santacittassa bhikkhuno; Amānusī ratī hoti, sammādhammaṃ vipassati.

A bhikkhu who has retired to a solitary cell, and with serene mind practices Vipassana in the right way, enjoys divine happiness.

His whole body is filled with the boundless rapture of bliss:

Pītisukhena vipulena, pharamāno samussayaṃ.

When one practises Vipassana properly, one experiences not only bliss in mind and rapture in body but also the happiness of the infinite peace of the deathless.

Yato yato sammasati, khandhānaṃ udayabbayaṃ; Labhati pīti pāmojjaṃ, amataṃ taṃ vijānataṃ.

Whenever one directs one’s attention anywhere within the body (understanding the contact of mind and body), one is aware only of arising and passing. One enjoys bliss and delight and experiences the deathless (which is the field of the Noble Ones).

This is the supreme happiness of nibbāna; this is supreme peace.

How can the Buddha be called doleful?

If some one is doleful, he can only spread misery. He cannot

and does not uphold the welfare of all.

In contrast, the Buddha wished well for all with these words:

Sabbe sattā sukhī hontu.

May all beings be happy.

An incident from his life:


A Brahmin youth named Ambaṭṭha insulted the Buddha with many foul words. When Ambaṭṭha’s teacher Pokkharasāti heard about his impropriety, he begged forgiveness from the Buddha on behalf of his disciple. On that occasion, the Buddha said:

Sukhī hotu brāhmaṇa, Ambaṭṭho māṇavo

O, Brahmin, let (your disciple) Ambaṭṭha be happy.

Another incident:

Suppavāsā of Koliya state was carrying a baby for a much longer time than normal. She was in extreme pain at the time of delivery of the baby. She sent a message to the Buddha about her condition. Great compassion arose in the Buddha and he sent his blessings:

Sukhinī hotu Suppavāsā Koliyadhītā. Arogā arogaṃ puttaṃ vijāyatū.

Suppavāsā, daughter of the Koliyas, may you be happy. May you be healthy and give birth to a healthy boy.

His blessings bore fruit. Such was the compassion of the Buddha and such were his words of benediction. Yet he is called a pessimist by those that criticise him.

Another incident:

After his retirement, King Kosala’s royal priest had gone south and settled on the banks of the Godavari. This priest, Brahmin Bāvarī, was 100 years old when he heard that a Sammā Sambuddha (A Self-enlightened One) had arisen in the state of Kosala. He sent his sixteen chief disciples to examine the claim. Upon reaching Sāvatthi, these disciples satisfied themselves that Samaṇa Gotama was indeed a Buddha. When one of the disciples saluted the Buddha and extended greetings on behalf of his teacher Bāvarī, the Buddha gave these words of blessing:

Sukhito Bāvarī hotu, sahasissehibrāhmaṇo; Tvaṃ cāpi sukhito hohi, ciraṃ jīvāhi māṇavo.

May Brahmin Bāvarī be happy along with his disciples! May you also be happy, O Brahmin apprentice! May you live long!

Would a pessimist who believes that life is nothing but misery give blessing for a long life (which would be a curse for extended suffering)? I think not.

The Buddha’s mind was always full of loving-kindness. He taught his disciples to practice the meditation of loving kindness—that is, compassionate love, regard for the welfare of all beings:

Sabbe sattā bhavantu sukhītattā.

May all beings be happy within themselves.

Wherever people practise Vipassana in ten-day courses around the world, they have the experience of this loving kindness. After having purified their minds as much as possible in ten days of intensive Vipassana meditation, they learn the practice of loving kindness (mettā bhāvanā). Even during the course, the meditation site is charged with the vibrations of the benevolent proclamation:

Loving Kindness When a householder invites a bhikkhu to offer him food and thus avails the opportunity of earning merits, the bhikkhu usually chants a mettasutta (verses of loving kindness). One feels great joy to hear these words of benediction. The same words of loving-kindness are heard in the early morning chanting in a ten-day Vipassana course permeating selfless love and creating a delightful atmosphere for meditation.



Na ca khuddamācare kiñci, yena viññū pare upavadeyyuṃ; sukhino va khemino hontu, sabbasattā bhavantu sukhitattā.


One should not do any mean thing that would invite censure from wise men. Let all creatures indeed be content, secure and happy within.



Ye keci pāṇabhūtatthi, tasā vā thāvarā vanavasesā; dīghā vā ye va mahantā, majjhimā rassakā aṇukathūlā. diṭṭhā vā ye va adiṭṭhā, ye va‚ dūre vasanti avidūre; bhūtā va sambhavesī va‚ sabbasattā bhavantu sukhitattā.


Whatever living creatures there are, moving or still, without exception, long or large, middle-sized or short, small or big, visible or invisible, living far or near, whether they already exist or are coming into being, let all creatures be happy within.



Na paro paraṃ nikubbetha, nātimaññetha katthaci na kañci. byārosanā paṭighasaññā, nāññamaññassa dukkhamiccheyya.


One man should not humiliate another; one should not despise anyone anywhere. One should not wish another misery out of anger or repugnance.



Mātā yathā niyaṃ puttaṃ, āyusā ekaputtamanurakkhe; evampi sabbabhūtesu, mānasaṃ bhāvaye aparimāṇaṃ.


Just as a mother would protect with her life her son, her only son, so one should cultivate infinite selfless love towards all beings.



Mettañca sabbalokasmi, mānasaṃ bhāvaye aparimāṇaṃ; uddhaṃ adho ca tiriyañca, asambādhaṃ averamasapattaṃ.


All loving-kindness towards all the world. One should cultivate an unbounded mind, above and below and across, without obstruction, without enmity, without rivalry.



Tiṭṭhaṃ caraṃ nisinno va‚ sayāno yāvatāssa vitamiddho. etaṃ satiṃ adhiṭṭheyya, brahmametaṃ vihāramidhamāhu.


Standing or walking or seated or lying down, as long as one is free from drowsiness, one should practise this mindfulness. This (they say) is the brahma state. Similar delightful words are found at many places in the Pali literature. Even if this country had preserved only the Dhammapada, a tiny fraction of this huge literature, they would not have mistakenly come to view the Buddha as a negative, pessimistic person. The first two verses of the Dhammapada are:



Manopubbaṅgamā dhammā, manoseṭṭhā manomayā; Manasā ce paduṭṭhena, bhāsati vā karoti vā; Tato naṃ dukkhamanveti, cakkaṃ va vahato padaṃ.


All bodily and vocal actions have mind as their precursor, mind as their supreme leader; of mind they are made. If one speaks or acts with an impure mind, suffering follows him as the wheel follows the hoof of the animal yoked to the chariot.



Manopubbaṅgamā dhammā, manoseṭṭhā manomayā; Manasā ce pasannena, bhāsati vā karoti vā; Tato naṃ sukhamanveti, chāyā va anapāyinī.


All the bodily and vocal actions have mind as their precursor, mind as their supreme leader; of mind they are made. If with a pure mind one speaks or acts, happiness follows him like his shadow that never leaves him. It is clear that whatever one does with an impure mind will be unwholesome and will definitely result in misery. Similarly whatever one does with a pure mind will be wholesome and will definitely result in happiness. These two verses alone would have clarified to anyone that the Buddha’s teaching is not fatalistic and that he is stating truths about both suffering and happiness. If one looks at the Dhammapada one finds that there are twenty-six chapters on various aspects of Dhamma, which teach one to live happily here and hereafter. One such chapter is Sukha Vagga (Chapter on Happiness). We note that there is no chapter on misery! This should prevent anyone from saying that the Buddha was pessimistic or that he was lacking in a positive attitude. Whenever the Buddha talked about suffering, he did so only to bring to light its root causes and to encourage people to eradicate these causes. Whenever the Buddha talked about happiness, he did so to bring to light its basis, and to encourage people to develop it. Instead of talking of the cause of misery and its eradication, if the Buddha had said: There is only misery everywhere now, and there is only going to be misery everywhere in future; it is futile to even try to come out of it; one should not waste one’s energy on this endeavour— then, he could be truly called a fatalist, a pessimist, and a cynic lacking positive attitude and promulgating inaction. If so, certainly the Buddha would have been the cause of harm not only to this country, but also to the entire human society. In that case, it would have been commendable to end his teaching not only in India but in the rest of the world as well. But the truth is that the Buddha never said, "There is no escape from misery". Instead, he gave a practical, here-and-now method to come out of all misery. We in India lost the experiential aspect of his teaching. Our repeated distortion of the theoretical aspect of his teaching deprived us of its benefit. Whosoever around the world preserved it, benefited from it. The time has come now for us to understand the real facts, to heed their manifest lesson and to follow the practical path taught by the Buddha. The cause of misery and its eradication The Buddha wanted to create an inclination in the minds of the people to free themselves from misery. This was why he taught the truth about suffering, its cause and how to come out of it. In this light, how can the following statement stand? "The Buddha’s view of life seems to be lacking in courage and confidence. Its emphasis on sorrow, if not false, is not true…" If anything, such a statement only proves the writer’s ignorance of the Buddha’s teaching. Who can deny the reality of suffering associated with birth, decay, disease and death, association with the unpleasant and disassociation from the pleasant; of wanted things not happening, and unwanted things happening? Are not these realities true? We get attached to the five aggregates thinking, "This is my mind," "This is my body," and we cling to them as "me" and "mine". This deep attachment to these five aggregates leads to the repeated cycle of birth and death. Who can deny the truth of this reality of suffering? At least all the spiritual traditions of India accept the cycle of becoming as misery and aim at getting liberated from this cycle, to attain the deathless. The Buddha said in this context:



Dukkhā jāti punappunaṃ.


(Before becoming liberated) I took repeated births in this misery. Before attaining Buddhahood, a Bodhisatta thinks thus:



Kicchaṃ vatāyaṃ loko āpanno. Oh, all people suffer so much!
Jāyati ca jīyati ca mīyati ca cavati ca upapajjati ca. Getting born, decaying, dying, passing away and arising again.
Atha ca panimassa dukkhassa nissaraṇaṃ nappajānāti jarāmaraṇassa. One does not know how to come out of the misery of repeated births and deaths.


A Bodhisatta searches for the answer and rediscovers the noble liberating Path of sīla-samādhi-paññā (morality, concentration and experiential wisdom) using which he liberates himself and helps many others to get liberated. Therefore it is said:



Punappunaṃ gabbhamupeti mando.


An ignorant person repeatedly falls in the womb (takes repeated births).



Punappunaṃ sivathikaṃ haranti.
Again and again one is taken to the cemetery.


How foolish it is to go through the suffering of dukkhā jāti punappunaṃ repeatedly, out of ignorance! Yet:



Maggaṃ ca laddhā apunabbhavāya Finding out the way out of (the cycle of) becoming
na punappunaṃ jāyati bhūripañño Having great wisdom, (the Buddha) does not take birth again and again.


Many others besides the Buddha became liberated by taking up this very Path. We have a treasury of the joyous utterances of hundreds of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, wherein they declare their attainment of liberation.

Bhavatu sabba maṅgalaṃ! (May all beings be happy!)

How can the people of a country that lost the meditation technique of Vipassana properly grasp that the Buddha was a promulgator of Dhamma, of welfare, of happiness?

Some examples:


Ekadhammassavaṇiya was the son of a businessman from Setabba. In the joyful mood of liberation, he declared:


Kilesā jhāpitā mayhaṃ

My passion has been extinguished.


Bhavā sabbe samūhatā

All becoming has been eradicated.


Vikkhīṇo jāti saṃsāro

The process of (repeated) births has been ended.


Natthi dāni punabbhavo

Now there is no more birth for me.


Bhikkhu Menḍhasira

Bhikkhu Menḍhasira had gone forth into homelessness from an affluent family of Saket. He proclaimed:


Anekajātisaṃsāraṃ, sandhāvissaṃ anibbisaṃ.

For countless lives I have kept running in this endless cycle of becoming.


Tassa me dukkhajātassa dukkhakkhandho uparaṭṭho.

From the suffering of (repeated) births, I have become liberated. The accumulated stock of misery has been destroyed.


Padmāvatī was a courtesan of Ujjain and the mother of Abhaya. She was ordained by the Buddha as a nun and through her serious practice of meditation, she became an arahat. Padmāvatī imparts these words:

Evaṃ viharamānāya—Thus, following the teaching of the Buddha,

Sabbo rāgo samūhato—Uprooting all the craving for sensual pleasure,

Pariḷāho samucchinno—Extinguishing the burning of passion,

Sītibhūtamhi nibbutāti—(I have) attained nibbāna to become transcendently cool and peaceful.

Aparā Uttamā Therī

Aparā Uttamā was born in a prominent Brahmin family of Kosala. Describing her meditation and resulting liberation, she joyfully exclaims:

Suññatassa nimittassa, lābhinīhaṃ yadacchika; Orasā dhītā buddhassa, nibbānābhiratā sadā.

My dream of experiencing the state where there is nothing to hold on to (nibbāna) has been fulfilled. I, a rightful daughter of the Buddha, ever enjoy the bliss of nibbāna.

Ye ime satta bojjhaṅgā, maggā nibbānapattiyā; Bhāvitā te mayā sabbā, yathā buddhena desitā.

To attain nibbāna I completed the development of all the seven bojjhaṅgas (factors of enlightenment) as taught by the Buddha.

Sabbe kāmā samucchinnā, ye dibbā ye ca mānusā; Vikkhīṇo jātisaṃsāro, natthi dāni punabbhavo.

My yearning for all the sensual pleasures—of this world and of heaven—has been eradicated. The cycle of becoming has ceased. Now there is no rebirth for me.

If the scholars of our country had read even a few quotations from the hundreds of utterances of the Buddha and his disciples, they would not have committed the grave error of characterising the liberating teaching of this supreme historic person as fatalistic and pessimistic.

Definition of Happiness

The Buddha is accused of being "dukkha-vādī". In Indian languages, the word vādī is used in three ways:

1. To denote those who establish a philosophy and argue to prove its efficacy. The Buddha did not establish the philosophy of misery and pessimism, and therefore had no need to argue in favour of it. He always said that arguing for any philosophy is wrong: Vivādaṃ bhayato disvā, avivādaṃ ca khemato.

2. To denote those who are blindly devoted to a traditional belief and use any means to disseminate it—such as fundamentalists who are ready to use terrorism for their cause. No one could accuse the Buddha of spreading sorrow in this manner.

3. To denote those who speak or give discourses. The Buddha used to give many discourses and hence he could be called vādī in this sense. However, the Buddha always taught Dhamma, the Truth. Therefore we see that in his lifetime he was often called saccavādī, tathavādī, kammavādī, kiriyavādī, kālavādī, piyavādī, hitavādī, yathāvādī tathākārī. (Speaking only the truth; speaking only the facts; speaking of Law of kamma; speaking for a detached action; speaking at the proper time; speaking agreeable words; speaking for the benefit [of the listener]; and a speaker who practises what he preaches, and preaches what he practises). He always spoke the words of truth; therefore even his opponents called him dhammavādī, speaker of Dhamma, speaker of the Truth.

An incident from his life:

A famous Brahmin, Āshwalāyana, was a contemporary of the Buddha. He was an erudite scholar and a Brahmin leader. When other Brahmins pleaded with him to take up an argument with the Buddha, he refused, saying that he could not argue with a dhammavādī (speaker of the Truth).

Even the opponents of the Buddha during his lifetime did not call him "speaker of sorrow" or "preacher of pessimism". He would have been characterised thus if he were always talking only of suffering and not of happiness. In reality, there is none else in the world who is a greater sukhavādī (preacher of happiness).

The Buddha did discuss misery, but only in order to eradicate it. He discussed happiness so that true happiness could be attained.

He explained how the mass of suffering arises. (…evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.)

And then he explained how the mass of suffering is extinguished, uprooted. (…evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hoti.)

Systematically describing suffering, he explained: Jāti pi dukkhā. As long as there is the cycle of birth and death, one has to endure suffering. True liberation from suffering is to be liberated from this cycle of birth and death. To this end he taught the simple, logical and practical technique of Vipassana which gives concrete results here and now. It is vastly different from all arguments and superficial philosophical beliefs. The Buddha undertook an analytical study of his own experiences of truth and encouraged his disciples to practise based on their own direct experience. The Buddha’s entire teaching is based on one’s own direct experience. In his teaching, there is no place for blind faith in the scriptures.

Different types of sensations

Today in India, the word vedanā means "pain". However, at the time of the Buddha, vedanā meant "one’s own experience". He classified vedanā in a scientific analytical manner. In one classification, he described two types of vedanā: kāyika and cetasika (bodily and mental). In another classification, he described three types of vedanā:

Tisso, imā vedanā, bhikkhave Bhikkhus, there are three types of experiences. Katamā tisso?

Which three?

Sukhā vedanā, dukkhā vedanā, adukkhamasukhā vedanā

Pleasant sensation, unpleasant sensation and a third, which is neither pleasant nor unpleasant.

We find this reference to three types of sensations many times in the words of the Buddha. He never spoke exclusively about unpleasant sensations (dukkhā vedanā). Those who are under the false impression that the Buddha’s teaching is solely about misery, will realise this for themselves if they read the words of the Buddha.

The Buddha commonly referred to these three types of sensations. However, he detailed many more classifications of sensations, based on his own subtle experiences gained from his profound introspective analysis. At times, he described the sensations he experienced as five distinct types. At other times, he divided them into six; at times, eighteen; at times thirty-six; at times, one hundred and eight types. From this, it is abundantly clear that he did not describe only unpleasant sensations.

Dukkha vedanā

In the famous passage beginning with Jāti pi dukkhā..., the Buddha enumerated eleven types of unpleasant experiences.

He has also described three aspects of suffering:

(1) dukkhadukkhatā—whatever is perceived directly as bodily and mental pain or misery.

(2) sakhāradukkhatā—whatever is experienced as a result of kammas is the misery of conditioning.

Strong kammas have the ability to give further birth. Even if one takes birth in the brahma realm of form or formlessness, this birth is bound to result in death. If at the time of death, any stock of kamma is remaining, it is bound to cause rebirth: thus the cycle of becoming continues. One continues to be born in any of the thirty-one realms and the cycle of misery continues. Therefore it is called saṅkhāradukkhatā.

(3) vipariāmadukkhatā—whatever is undone every moment (that is, whatever keeps changing) continues to result in bodily and mental ills. This change finally results in death.

Sukha vedanā

However, he also described many pleasant sensations: the five sense pleasures resulting from the experiences of the eyes, ear, nose, tongue and skin.

People ignorant of Dhamma think of these sensual pleasures as the ultimate happiness. The Buddha explained that greater than these pleasures born of sensual craving is the happiness of the first jhāna (first dhyāna or absorption) which is called pīti-sukha: Savicāraṃ savitakkaṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ.

At the time of the Buddha, dhyāna-sukha (happiness of absorption) was not called ānanda. It was called pīti-sukha. In Vedic literature as well, ānanda was not used for any high spiritual experience. In the Vedas, it was used to describe base and lesser pleasures such as:

Ānandāyastrīśakhaṃ (Yajurveda 30, 6)

Befriend a woman to enjoy (sensual pleasures)

In the Vedas sukha was a higher experience than ānanda.

The Buddha also used ānanda to describe a lower form of happiness.

Ko nu hāso, kimānando, niccaṃ pajjalite sati!
Why indulge in hilarity and revelry! Why indulge in ānanda! See the incessant burning inside!

Similarly he said about taṇhā (tṛśṇā, craving)

Yāyaṃ taṇhā ponobbhavikā nandīrāgasahagatā tatratatrābhinandinī…

This craving causes birth again and again, accompanying the ānanda of sensual pleasures, sometimes taking pleasure here, sometimes taking pleasure there.

In another example:

The Buddha renounced the pleasures of the world. Opposing this move, Māra (the Evil one) says:

Nandati puttehi puttimā

One with sons takes pleasure (ānanda) in sons.

Gomiko gohi tatheva nandati

One with many cows takes (ānanda) pleasure in them.

Upadhī hi narassa nandanā

Sensual pleasures are the true happiness of man.

Na hi so nandati yo nirūpadhi

One who denies sensual pleasures does not have ānanda in one’s life.


By the time of Patanjali, ānanda acquired a higher meaning and pīti-sukha became debased. When Patanjali talks about the first jhāna that was previously described by the Buddha, he substituted pīti-sukha with ānanda.

Vitarka-vicāra-ānanda-asmitā rūpānugamāt samprajñātah (Yogasūtra 10)

The Buddha described the happiness of the first jhāna (dhyāna) using the term pīti-sukha. Pīti-sukha is greater than the happiness of sensual pleasures. Some people think of this pīti-sukha as the ultimate happiness, which is wrong. Greater than this is the happiness of the second jhāna (dhyāna)—pīti-sukha that is devoid of vitakka (initial application of mind to object) and vicāra (sustained application of mind to object): avitakkaṃ avicāraṃsamādhijaṃ pīti sukhaṃ.

To consider this to be the ultimate happiness is also wrong. Superior to this is the happiness of equanimity of the third jhāna: upekkhako satimā sukhavihārī.

Some people think of this as the ultimate happiness; this also is wrong. Greater is the happiness of fourth jhāna—when pure awareness with equanimity gives rise to the neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant experience of adukkhamasukhaṃ upekkhāsatipārisuddhaṃ.

Some people think of this as the ultimate happiness; this is wrong. Greater than this is the experience of infinite space of the fifth jhāna: ākāsānañcāyatanaṃ.

Some people think of this as the ultimate happiness; this is wrong. Greater than this is the happiness of the experience of infinite consciousness of the sixth jhāna: viññāṇañcāyatanaṃ.

Some people think of this as the ultimate happiness, which is wrong. Greater happiness than this is the experience of nothing-to-hold-onto of the seventh jhāna: ākiñcaññāyatanaṃ.

Some people think of this as the ultimate happiness, which is wrong. A greater happiness than this is the experience of neither-perception-nor-nonperception of the eighth jhāna: nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṃ.

Some people think of this as the ultimate happiness, which is wrong. A happiness superior to this is the experience that is beyond all these experiences, the sublime experience where vedanā and saññā (sensation and perception) are extinguished: saññāvedayitanirodhaṃ.

This is the nibbānic happiness that is beyond mind and matter, beyond the cycle of existence, beyond all realms of existence, beyond the senses, eternal, everlasting, permanent. Therefore, the Buddha said—Nibbānaṃparamaṃ sukhaṃ.

One experiences the ultimate happiness of nibbāna when the entire stock of previous saṅkhāras is eradicated. A bhikkhu who has reached that stage proclaims:

Pamojjabahulo bhikkhu, pasanno buddhasāsane;

Adhigacche padaṃ santaṃ, saṅkhārūpasamaṃ sukhaṃ.

Heart gladdened with the teaching of Buddha, the joyous bhikkhu, attaining the ultimate peace and happiness of nibbāna, has totally allayed all saṅkhāras.

Mere practice of the eight jhānas does not give one this experience. We know this from the experience of the Bodhisatta. In the period after he had gone forth from his princely life in Kapilavastu into homelessness, Bodhisatta Siddhattha Gotama went to Magadha to learn the technique of the jhānas. Even though there was a branch in Kapilavastu of Āḷāra Kālāma’s meditation centre (belonging to the Samaṇa tradition), Gotama went to the centre in Magadha because it was the principal centre and the main teacher was present there. Within two or three days, the Bodhisatta attained the seventh jhāna. He found that although they were very pleasurable, their practice did not bring him ultimate liberation. Therefore, he took leave of Acharya Āḷāra Kālāma, and went to learn from Acharya Uddaka Rāmaputta. While this teacher had only heard about the experience of the eighth jhāna and could describe and explain it to his students, he had not attained it himself. After listening to the teacher’s description, the Bodhisatta attained the stage of the eighth jhāna within two to three days. After that, Uddaka Rāmaputta also attained the eighth jhāna. The Bodhisatta realised that this state was much more pleasurable than the seventh jhāna, but it was not the ultimate state that he sought. Old saṅkhāras (conditionings) still lay dormant at the deepest level of his mind, which could again become the cause of birth. As long as these were not completely eradicated, this high meditative experience could not be called the ultimate liberation.

At this point, he undertook to practice severe penances of self-deprivation, a practice common in those days in the Samaṇa tradition. He continued this for almost six years but he found it futile. At last he rediscovered through his own supreme efforts the long-lost ancient technique of Vipassana. Through its practice, he attained total liberation. The Buddha has clearly explained in detail all the methods he adopted, from the time of his renunciation of household life until his attainment of total liberation.

When the Buddha’s words were lost in India, falsehoods were spread, which distorted the truth about him. For example, in regards to his efforts in meditation before attaining enlightenment, the fallacious view arose that he learned Kapil philosophy from a scholar by the name of Sanjay. This was not so. It is totally false that Siddhattha attained Buddhahood by studying any philosophy. He said repeatedly: "I have gone beyond all philosophical beliefs". He would have not said so if he had been following a philosophical belief.

In the second jhāna, the cetasikas (mental concomitants) cease. In the fourth jhāna, the bodily functions cease. After this, only the mind continues. From the fifth jhāna to the eighth jhāna, different techniques are used to expand the mind into infinity. After reaching this stage, some saṅkhāras still remain. Even the experience of absorption in the eighth jhāna is not permanent or beyond cause and effect. The state of total eradication of taṇhā (craving)—the complete extinction of kammas—cannot be attained solely through the practice of jhānas, however high, because in the state of extinction of craving, the mind ceases to function, and nibbāna is attained. The Buddha’s enlightenment was his realisation of this incomparable experience through the practice of Vipassana: nibbāna, the eradication of all misery.

Therefore, the Buddha proclaimed:

Yañca kāmasukhaṃ loke, yañcidaṃ diviyaṃ sukhaṃ; Taṇhakkhayasukhassete, kalaṃ nāgghanti soḷasin’ti.

This happiness of sensual pleasures and this divine joy are not even one-sixteenth of the ultimate happiness that comes from the extinction of taṇhā.

When the Bodhisatta attained perfect enlightenment he uttered these words:

Visaṅkhāragataṃ cittaṃ, taṇhānaṃ khayamajjhagā.

The mind has become freed from conditioning; the end of craving has been reached.

Having attained nibbāna—the permanent, eternal, permanent state of ultimate reality—for the rest of his life, the Buddha kept teaching the same Path to other seekers. With immense compassion, having liberated himself, he strove unwaveringly to help others achieve true happiness.

Use of the term sukha (happiness)

The Buddha used the word sukha to refer to different kinds of happiness because suitable words were not available to describe the various kinds of happiness in the language of those days. He sometimes qualified his usage of the term; for example, he enumerated four types of worldly happiness for ordinary householders:

1. Ānaṇya sukha—The happiness of being free from debt. Every honest householder knows what misery it is to be burdened by debt. When the debt is repaid, he becomes happy.

2. Atthi sukha—The happiness of possessing wealth and property, even if he is not enjoying it or using it. "My credit balance is increasing; the turnover of my business is increasing; the price of my property is increasing; the price of my stocks is increasing." This sukha is the joy of possession.

3. Bhoga sukha—When the joy of possession becomes the joy of enjoying possessions. When this happens, one’s happiness increases. Due to one’s wealth, one enjoys various comforts: with one’s eyes, one sees pleasing sights; with the ears, one hears melodious music; with the nose, one smells sweet fragrances; with the tongue, one tastes delicious foods; and with the body, one enjoys pleasant physical contact. All these make one feel happiness.

4. Anavajjasukha—To abstain from deeds which go against Dhamma. For a householder, this happiness is greater than the preceding three. A householder examines oneself and sees that he abstains from unwholesome conduct: he abstains from killing; from stealing; from sexual misconduct; from lying and deceiving others; from harsh speech, backbiting, and slanderous speech that hurts others. He sees that he abstains from the use of intoxicants. He sees that his livelihood does not involve dealing with weapons, poisons, animals for slaughter, meat and intoxicants such as alcohol. His mind delights in this. He remains free from fear of laws of the government or censure from society in the present life, as well as fear of descending to the nether worlds in the afterlife. He also remains free from the agony of remorse. Remaining joyful, calm and fearless such a pure-minded person experiences a type of happiness that is undoubtedly superior to other worldly pleasures.

It is not possible to give a different name to each type of happiness. Even so, while comparing various types of happiness, the Buddha once explained, in detail, which happiness is lesser and which is greater:

1. Happiness of home and happiness of homelessness (of a monk or a nun)—between the two, the happiness of homelessness is greater.

2. Happiness of sensual pleasures and happiness of renunciation—between the two, the happiness of renunciation is greater.

3. Happiness of various realms and happiness beyond all the realms of existence—between the two, the happiness beyond the realms of existence is greater.

4. Happiness accompanied by āsavas (intoxicating impulses) and happiness not accompanied by āsavas—between the two, the happiness not accompanied by āsavas is greater.

5. Happiness of material comforts and happiness other than that of material comforts—between the two, the happiness of other than material comforts is greater.

6. Happiness of the anariyas (non-noble ones) and happiness of ariyas (noble ones)—between the two, the happiness of ariyas is greater.

7. Happiness of body (one that comes from physical comfort) and happiness of mind—between the two, the happiness of mind is greater.

8. Happiness accompanied by pīti (pleasurable sensations in the body) and happiness without pīti (beyond the pleasurable sensations in the body)—between the two, happiness without pīti is greater.

9. Happiness of indulgence and happiness of restraint—between the two, the happiness of restrain is greater.

10. Happiness of a scattered mind (of the mind not in jhāna) and happiness of a concentrated mind (of the mind in jhānic states)—between the two, the happiness of a concentrated mind is greater.

11. Happiness with pīti (pleasurable sensations in the body) as its object and happiness beyond pīti as its object—between the two, the happiness beyond pīti as its object is greater.

12. Happiness dependent on indulgence as its object and happiness dependent on restraint as its object—between the two, happiness dependent on restraint as its object is greater.

13. Happiness with form as object and happiness with formlessness as object—between the two, happiness with formlessness as its object is greater.


The Buddha has enumerated many types of happiness like this, for example:

kāyikasukhaṃ, cetasikasukhaṃ, dibbasukhaṃ, mānusakasukhaṃ, lābhasukhaṃ, sakkārasukhaṃ, yānasukhaṃ, sayanasukhaṃ, issariyasukhaṃ, ādhipaccasukhaṃ, gihisukhaṃ, sāmaññasukhaṃ, sāsavasukhaṃ, anāsavasukhaṃ, upadhisukhaṃ, nirūpadhisukhaṃ, sāmisasukhaṃ, nirāmisasukhaṃ, sappītikasukhaṃ, nippītikasukhaṃ, jhānasukhaṃ, vimuttisukhaṃ, kāmasukhaṃ, nekkhammasukhaṃ, vivekasukhaṃ, upasamasukhaṃ, sambodhasukhaṃ.

Even otherwise, the use of sukha (happiness) means different things in different contexts.

Thus we see that this great sage enumerated different kinds of happiness by providing detailed, analytical explanation in words. But even more importantly, he taught a clear method to allow its practitioners to experience the superior kinds of happiness:

Cittaṃ dantaṃ sukhāvahaṃ—restraint of mind brings happiness.
Cittaṃ guttaṃ sukhāvahaṃ—guarding one’s mind brings happiness.
Dhammo ciṇṇo sukhāvaho—the practice of Dhamma brings happiness.

Wherever he discussed dukkha it was to explain in depth its cause and how to eradicate this cause, and to teach the actual practice of its eradication. Anyone who claims that the Buddha was a pessimist who discussed nothing but misery is only displaying ignorance of the Buddha’s original teaching.

Overemphasis of Misery I have heard the view that the Buddha is a pessimist with this argument: "Certainly there is misery in the world, but the Buddha overemphasised it." However, despite diligent searching and analysis, I cannot find any such over-emphasis on misery in the words of the Buddha. The Buddha speaks of the obvious realities of birth, old age, disease, death and grief only to show the path of liberation from all these. These sufferings have been elaborated in many scriptures of our country. For example, the Buddha says, jātipi dukkhā (birth is suffering). In comparison along similar lines, the Vishnu Purana (a Sanskrit scripture), however, gives these gory details: Wrapped in the membrane of the mother’s womb, the delicate-bodied fetus lies in the muck of excrement, taking in bitter, salty, hot tastes; coiled due to the flexion of spine; unable to breathe, although it is alive and sentient; suffers from its stay in the womb as it remembers its past lives. At the time of birth too, its face is smeared with excrement, blood and mucus and the entire body is tortured and traumatised by birth. Its face is forced down and it is with a great onerousness that it comes out of the mother’s womb. Upon emerging, it is further tormented by the contact with the outside atmosphere. This being comes down to earth like a maggot from a wound. It is totally helpless, totally dependent on others even for bathing and feeding. Lying on a dirty bed, it is an easy target for mosquitoes and other biting insects. It cannot even drive away the mosquitoes. Thus does a being suffer at the time of birth and after birth from worldly hardships. Whereas the Buddha stopped at merely jarāpi dukkhā (old age is misery), the Vishnu Purana goes on to paint a vastly more gloomy and hopeless picture: When old age comes, the senses become weak, the teeth fall out, the skin becomes wrinkled, the veins and tendons stand out. The eyes sink and the vision becomes weak. Hair comes out from the nose. The body trembles, the back is bent. The body becomes bony. The digestive powers fade, one’s strength vanishes. There is great difficulty in walking and in getting up; the ears and eyes become feeble and the mouth stinks and saliva drips from it. One loses control over bodily functions. On the deathbed, one does not even remember what one had seen or heard in the past. Each word is spoken with great difficulty. Breathlessness makes sleep impossible. One needs help even to sit up. One cannot do anything on one’s own. Whereas the Buddha stopped at maraṇampi dukkhaṃ (death is suffering), Vishnu Purana gives a horrific picture: The voice becomes feeble, the limbs become weak, the body trembles. Delirium and unconsciousness alternate with consciousness. At that time, he remains greatly agitated as he longs for wealth and home, wife and children, friends and relatives. Added to this misery are pains from various ailments that hurt like agonising spears and terrible arrows. The eyes roll up, the lips and throat dry up. The hands and legs flap wildly due to pain. All this leads to difficulty in breathing; one merely manages to gasp shallow breaths. Intense heat, breathlessness, hunger and thirst make him feel wretched. He leaves the body in distressing deadly pain. This description from Vishnu Purana is not wrong and correctly describes the sufferings associated with birth, old age and death. However, this description is far gloomier than the simple statements of the Buddha. Nonetheless, people continue to censure the Buddha as an extreme pessimist. The Vishnu Purana continues: In his foolishness, man thinks of the satiation of his hunger, thirst and protection from cold alone as happiness; while all this is, in actuality, only suffering. The Purana adds: Sarvaṃ duhkhamayaṃ jagat—The entire world is full of misery. By contrast, we see the words of the grateful disciples of the Buddha (who is accused of spreading sorrow!):



Te appamattā sukhino, diṭṭhadhammābhinibbuta; sabbaverabhayātitā, sabbadukkhaṃ upaccagunti.


These vigilant ones live happily, realising nibbāna (here and now). They are beyond enmity and fear; having crossed over the field of misery. Similarly one sorrowless meditator declares: Anubhomi sukhaṃ sabbaṃ—I experience every happiness. The Buddha dispensed the practical training of how to come out of all the miseries and to experience complete happiness. How unjust to make allegations that the Buddha brought out the darker side of existence and emphasised only misery! How outrageously misleading and wrong it is! It is as clear as broad daylight that in the conflict-torn Middle Ages, our ancestors corrupted the truth about the Buddha. What to speak of the misconceptions held by the masses, the repetition of these falsehoods for hundreds of years deceived even the distinguished philosophers of our times! Come, let us correct this grave error and understand the original authentic words of the Buddha so that we can make up for these wrongs of the past! Was the Buddha an Extreme Pessimist? It has been said, "The Buddha was an extreme pessimist, further darkening the greyness of pessimism." Yet, all efforts to try to find any basis for such statements in the actual words and teaching of the Buddha prove fruitless. What would have made the Buddha a pessimist? Had he proclaimed that— There is nothing but misery in life; there is no happiness to be found anywhere; we are imprisoned in a dark dungeon of despair where not a ray of sunshine penetrates and from which there is no escape; we must face the pain of this incarceration for our entire lives— then, indeed, the Buddha should have been branded not only a pessimist, but an extreme pessimist! The words Sarvaṃ dukkhaṃ dukkhaṃ (everything is misery, misery) were put into his mouth either for some selfish ulterior motive or out of utter ignorance. Subsequently this falsehood was repeated for more than a millennium. However, the Buddha never said anything like this. A comprehensive search and analysis of the exhaustive Pali canon containing the original words of the Buddha through the use of computer technology has determined that no such statement was ever made by him. It is true that the Buddha exposed the unhappy part of life. However, while doing so he also explained the way to come out of it. There is no spiritual tradition in India that will refute what the Buddha had to say concerning misery. They all accept that beings suffer from disease, decay, and death; from dissociation from pleasant situations or persons and association with unpleasant situations or persons; from wanted things not happening and unwanted things happening. The Buddha said that this suffering continues as long as the cycle of birth and death continues. Whenever a being is born, it goes through this suffering. Was he called a pessimist because he claimed that the cycle of birth and death has no beginning?



Anamataggoyaṃ, bhikkhave, saṃsāro pubbākoṭi na paññāyati.
O monks, the beginning of this universe cannot be determined.


The Samaṇa tradition believes that one’s liberation can be attained through the strength of one’s own effort. The Samaṇa tradition does not believe that the universe was created by any God or brahma. However, even those Indian traditions which believe that the universe has been created by a brahma accept that the universe goes through repeated cycles of creation and destruction. Even they do not claim to know when the universe first got established. Therefore, the Buddha’s statement of ‘Anamataggoyaṃ...’ cannot be taken as a basis for accusing his teaching of pessimism. (However, those who choose to take it as so, logically should include the other traditions as equally culpable of this charge!) Whatever the Buddha explained was not based on any scripture, traditional belief or speculative theory. He proclaimed it on the firm basis of his own direct experience. Upon attaining perfect enlightenment, the Buddha developed six supernatural powers, one of which is called pubbenivāsānussati (the recollection of past lives). The Buddha saw that four asaṅkheyya (lit. "incalculable", an immense period of time) and one lakh kappas (an aeon, duration of one world cycle) ago there arose a Buddha named Dipaṅkara. At that time, Gotama was an ascetic Brahmin named Sumedha. Sumedha was extremely impressed with Dipaṅkara Buddha and a wish arose in his mind: "May I also become a Buddha like Dipaṅkara Buddha. In countless lives, may I also serve other beings and fulfil my pāramis. Thus, not only will I become liberated, but I will also be able to help many others to attain liberation." Dipaṅkara Buddha comprehended what was going on in Sumedha’s mind and prophesied:



Passattha imaṃ tāpasaṃ, jaṭila-uggatāpanaṃ; Aparimeyyito kappe, buddho loke bhavissati.


See this ascetic with long matted hair who has undertaken severe penances. After countless aeons he will become a Buddha. Having cultivated virtuous actions for countless aeons and fulfilled sufficient pāramis (virtues), Siddhattha Gotama became the fourth in the chain of five Buddhas in the current auspicious kappa. The supernatural power of knowing past lives enabled him to remember Dipaṅkara Buddha’s blessing. He went further back and found that there was no beginning to this universe. It gets created and destroyed again and again: the inexorable cycle of suffering continues according to the natural law. To come out of this, like other Sammā Sambuddhas, he discovered the liberating Path of enlightenment. Innumerable beings became liberated from all suffering due to his efforts. Was the Buddha charged as being a pessimist because he said that the suffering from cycle of birth and death has continued from time immemorial? Some spiritual traditions outside of India do not believe in repeated births and deaths. They believe only in the present life. They hold that after death there is either eternal heaven or eternal hell. We do not know whether the spiritual traditions of India that believe in repeated births held these beliefs even before the time of the Buddha or whether they started doing so only after the Buddha. This belief may have existed in the Vedas before the Buddha. To this end, we need to conduct research into the Vedas (written in Chāndas language). Here are a few references that we have come across:



Vedāhametaṃ puruśaṃ mahāntam, ādityavarṇaṃ tamasah parastāt; Tameva viditvāti mṛtyumeti, nānya panthā vidyateyanāya. (Yajurveda 31-18)


I know that great man bright in complexion and totally away from the darkness of ignorance. Only through knowing him can one transcend death. There is no other way. Another reference states:



Aśmanvatīr īyate saṃrabhadhvam, uttiśṭhata prataratā sakhāyah; Atrā jahāma ye asannasevāh, śivān vayam uttaremābhivājān. (Ṛgveda 10-53-8)


Get up, O friends! Unite to cross the fast stream of the river that is filled with the stones of misery. Stay away from the proscribed (worldly) things. When we reach the shore yonder we will receive energy of every kind. Here is a clear indication of the wish to attain the śiva (eternal state). However it is not clear whether this implies the crossing over of the river of suffering of this life alone or of repeated rebirths. At another place is stated:



Vīrayadhvaṃ pra taratā (Atharveda 12.2.26)


Only the energetic ones swim (and) cross over. Here also it is not clear whether the reference is to crossing over the river of one life or of repeated lives. Perhaps it refers to repeated births. If before the Buddha there was a prevailing belief in only one life—that one becomes liberated from all the misery after the present life—it is perhaps acceptable to say that the Buddha taught the belief of repeated lives (where one suffers again and again). More research is needed on this aspect. In India in ancient times and even today, the human realm is called the ‘realm of death’ and the divine realm is called the ‘realm of the deathless’. According to this belief, if a being of the realm of death goes to a divine realm, it lives forever (it does not die). For example, in the devotional cult of Vishnu, it is held that if one goes to the realm of Vishnu after death, then one does not die again. However, the Buddha said that even the gods of divine realms are not eternal—they are subject to death; all realms of existence are subject to death. Only the state beyond all of these realms is eternal and deathless. Even in the highest planes of existence there is fear of death. Was it because the Buddha proclaimed this truth that he was labelled pessimistic? However, we see that some of the traditions after the Buddha also accepted this truth. The Vishnu Purana says:



Svargepi pātabhītasya kśayiśṇonīrita nivṛttih.


Even in a heavenly realm, a being is ever tormented by the fear of falling from heaven. Whether the belief is that the divine realm is eternal; or that the brahma realm is eternal; or that only the state beyond all this is eternal—today there is little argument in Indian traditions that there are repeated births. Well, if this is pessimism then all the traditions share the blame. Why single out only the Buddha? All the spiritual traditions in India want to help beings to come out of the cycle of birth and death. Different traditions express different beliefs, but the basic aim is the same. I remember when I was a child I used to sing a devotional verse to Vishnu:



Vāsudevasya bhaktānām, aśubham vidyate kvacit; Janma, mṛtyu, jarā, vyādhi, bhayaṃ te nappajāyate.


Even if the devotees of Lord Vasudev have to face misery at times, the fear of birth, death, old age and sickness does not arise in them. Indeed, they will be liberated from the cycle of birth and death. They will not have any fear of these. Thus, unless one is liberated, the worry of birth and death is accepted even in these spiritual traditions. Mira, the famous devotee of Krishna, says:



Yo saṃsāra bahyo jāta hai, lakha caurāsī rī dhāra; Mīrā ke prabhu giradhara nāgara, āvāgamana nivāra.


This cycle of birth and death continues infinitely, O Lord Krishna, free me from this cycle! Then she adds:



Mīrā ke prabhu giradhara nāgara, kāṭo jama kī phāṃsī.
O Lord of Mira, cut off the noose of birth!


Tulsidas, the devotee of Ram, advises the chanting of a name to cross over the ocean of becoming:



Nāmajapa, nāmajapa, nāmajapa bāvare! Ghora bhava nīranidhi, nāma nija nāva re! He says the same in this verse: Kaliyuga kevala nāma adhārā, Sumara-sumara bhava utarehu pārā.


Kabir asks people to listen (and), to stop the cycle of becoming :



Kahata kabīra suno bhaī sādho, āvāgamana miṭā-ūṃ.


And one of his disciples says,



Lakha caurāsī bhaṭaka manuja tana pāyala ho.


To rid yourself of having to go through eighty-four hundred thousand lives, make proper use of this human life. Sant Gulal says that the master will make him realise the truth and the cycle of becoming will stop automatically:



Āvāgamana na ho-ihaiṃ, satguru satta lakhāvai.


Was Shankaracharya also a pessimist? Even Adi Shankaracharya teaches freedom from the cycle of becoming and advises ways to come out of it. He says:



Punarapi jananaṃ punarapi maraṇaṃ, punarapi jananījaṭhare śayanam.


To take birth again and again, to die again and again, to lie in the womb of the mother again and again.



Iha saṃsāre bahudustāre, kṛpayāpāre pāhi murāre.


O Lord, please take me out of this gruelling ocean of saṃsāra. What logic is there in this? Shankaracharya is not called a pessimist even though he prays to God to take him out of the thorny saṃsāra; yet the Buddha is called a pessimist, even though he teaches an actual technique to eradicate all cravings and cross the ocean of becoming! Like some traditions after the Buddha, Shankaracharya also accepts that the root cause of the cycle of becoming is craving. Hence he also advises beings to get rid of craving:



Mūḍha jahīhi dhanāgamatṛśṇāṃ, kuru sadbuddhiṃ manasi vitṛśṇām.


O fool, leave behind the craving for wealth. Develop wisdom to develop detachment. Truly ignorant is the man trapped in the wheel of saṃsāra.



Aṅgaṃ galitaṃ palitaṃ muṇḍaṃ, daśanavihīnaṃ jātaṃ tuṇḍam.


Every organ is torn and exhausted; the hair has turned white; one’s mouth has lost all teeth.



Vṛddho yāti gṛhītvā daṇḍaṃ, tadapi na muñcatyāśāpiṇḍam.


So old that he has difficulty walking even with the help of a stick; and yet, his attachment and craving do not go away. To get rid of this craving Shankaracharya advised prayer:



Bhaja govindaṃ, bhaja govindaṃ, bhaja govindaṃ mūḍhamate.


Chant the name of Govinda, chant the name of Govinda, chant the name of Govinda, o foolish one. Sometimes he also advises efforts in meditation:



Arthamanartham bhāvayanityam.


Meditate on "what is beneficial and what is harmful"—that is, "what is essential and what is superfluous"—and understand that:



Nāsti tatah sukhaleśah satyam.


There is no happiness at all in the world (that is, the world is full of misery). It is harmful to take a world full of misery as happiness when there is no happiness at all. It is clear that on the issue of suffering from repeated cycles of birth and death, Shankaracharya and the Buddha have the same view. If there is any discrepancy it is this: the Buddha did not make us dependent upon some imaginary invisible power. He taught the way of liberation from all misery using the practical method of Vipassana meditation. He imparted the wisdom that as long as we take the five aggregates (that is, mind and body) as ‘I’ or ‘mine’, we will continue to have deep attachment towards them. This, the Buddha said, is the main cause of misery: saṅkhittena pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā (in short, attachment to the five aggregates is suffering.) One aggregate is the aggregate of body. The other four aggregates are aggregates of perception, cognition, sensation and reaction. Practice of the Buddha’s teaching eradicates this basic cause of misery. On this path, a meditator comes out of the misunderstanding that this body or this mind is "I". Thus, one starts coming out of the attachment of "I" and "mine"; starts coming out of craving and aversion. Whatever craving and aversion one removes through the experiential wisdom of Vipassana, one is freed from misery to that extent. Established firmly in experiential wisdom, one eradicates all craving and aversion and thus comes out of the entire misery of existence. The Buddha taught a technique, the beneficial effects of which were evident in the past and can also be seen today. Even so, we label the Buddha as being "extremely pessimistic". Anyone who learns the practical aspect of his teaching and reads his original words cannot make this mistake. Such a person cannot accept this unjustified criticism from anyone else. The Buddha’s Two Main Meditation Techniques To live a happy and harmonious life and to eradicate all misery, the Buddha taught many meditation techniques. Of these, the two principal methods are Vipassana and mettā bhāvanā. 1. Vipassana meditation Vipassana enables meditators to gain mastery over the mind on the basis of morality, and to develop experiential wisdom to eradicate all the defilements of craving and aversion. It is a practical technique that gives beneficial results here and now, just as it did in the past. At the time of the Buddha, millions of suffering people tormented by the unbearable assaults of life were relieved from this burden of suffering through Vipassana. One example: Kisā Gotamī For years after her marriage, Kisā Gotamī suffered the painful burden of childlessness. When she finally gave birth to a son, her happiness knew no bounds. It was as if a divine treasure had been bestowed upon her. However, after only a few years, her only child died of snakebite. Her heart sank to the greatest depth of misery. Others around her could not tolerate her extreme lamentation. When this anguished woman met the Buddha and learned Vipassana, she was relieved not only of the grief of her son’s death but also of all the suffering of repeated births and deaths. She spent the rest of her life helping other suffering women to become free from misery. Another example: Paṭācārā Paṭācārā was the daughter of a very rich family of Sāvatthi. She was born and brought up in great luxury. Unfortunately, she slipped and fell into the quicksand of passion and ran away with one of her family’s young servants. Years passed before she began her journey to return to her parents. Several circumstances had resulted in the catastrophic loss not only of her husband, but of both of their sons. In acute grief and lamentation over the loss of husband and sons, she reached Sāvatthi, only to find three funeral pyres burning outside the town. Imagine her deep shock when she discovered that these pyres were burning the bodies of her own mother, father and only brother. (The night before, their house had collapsed in an earthquake.) Now this unfortunate woman had no relative left in the world. Due to this intolerable trauma, she became totally insane. When she came in contact with the Buddha, she learned Vipassana. Practising it, she found that this benevolent technique liberated her not only from the sorrow of losing her near and dear ones, but also from all the sufferings that come from the cycle of birth and death. She started serving others and helped many to lead happy lives. Even today, this practice gives the same results, with each step that is taken on the Noble Path of Vipassana. Those who practise it live happy and peaceful lives even in the face of complex worldly problems. The experience of hundreds of thousands of meditators is the concrete proof of this. People all over the world from all walks of life come to Vipassana courses. Their minds are burdened with grief from the losses of their near and dear ones: their mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives. Or they are afflicted with depression or insomnia due to the stresses of modern life. They have suffered the losses of money, position, prestige, or disappointment in personal relations. They are disheartened and frustrated by multifarious problems. Yet we always find that at the end of their ten-day Vipassana course, their faces light up with peace and happiness. There are so many instances where serious Vipassana meditators have faced the pain of terminal illnesses such as cancer with great fortitude, rejecting strong painkillers or drugs that would have made them unconscious. They choose to face their deaths with full awareness and pass away with peaceful and alert minds. What could be a greater medicine to cure the affliction of misery! Thousands of prison inmates burning in the fire of revenge go through Vipassana retreats every year. Over and over again, we witness them at the end of their ten-day exploration of the reality deep inside themselves. They proclaim their acceptance of their faults with tears in their eyes. Instead of smouldering in thoughts of vengeance, they start generating loving-kindness for everyone. These examples, being lived every day, demonstrate the exquisite practicality of the Buddha’s teaching. Such examples are direct confirmation of the results it gives here and now. 2. Mettā bhāvanā: Loving kindness The teaching of the Buddha does not build castles in the air. It does not give false hope. It teaches us to proceed with every step firmly grounded in the truth of one’s own experience of reality within. A meditator looks within—to the anchor of his or her own direct experience—to discover for himself, that every time he generates hatred or animosity against anyone, at that very moment, he becomes agitated and loses his peace of mind.



Aśāntasya kuto sukhaṃ?


He who has lost his peace of mind has no happiness. He observes for himself the workings of Dhamma: how far away from happiness he is when he loses his peace of mind. He understands clearly that whenever he generates anger or hatred or animosity, he becomes the first victim of that defilement. At that very moment, he becomes agitated. He also experiences that when he removes these defilements he becomes happy and peaceful. Therefore, again and again he reflects:



Ahaṃ avero homi, abyāpajjo homi, anīgho homi, sukhī attānaṃ pariharāmi.
May I be free from animosity, free from hatred, free from anger. May I experience peace within myself.


This sentiment is not just wishful thinking. One practises mettā bhāvanā (loving kindness meditation) only after one actually starts eradicating defilements through the practice of Vipassana. There naturally arises a wish in one’s mind that all others—whether friends, relatives or unknown people; (whether visible or invisible) be free from defilements and become happy and peaceful.



Mātāpitu ācariya ñātisamūhā, averā hontu, abyāpajjā hontu, anīghā hontu, sukhī attānaṃ pariharantu. May my mother and father, teachers, neighbours be free from animosity, free from hatred, free from anger. May they all experience peace within themselves.
Ārakkhadevatā, bhūmaṭṭhadevatā, rukkhaṭṭhadevatā, ākāsaṭṭhadevatā averā hontu, abyāpajjā hontu, anīghā hontu, sukhī attānaṃ pariharantu. May the guardian deities, tree deities, deities in the sky be free from animosity, free from hatred, free from anger. May they all experience peace within themselves.
Puratthimāya disāya, pacchimāya disāya, Uttarāya disāya, dakkhiṇāya disāya, Heṭṭhimāya disāya, uparimāya disāya, Puratthimāya anudisāya, pacchimāya anudisāya, Uttarāya anudisāya, dakkhiṇāya anudisāya, East, west, north, south, above, below, south-east, north-east, north-west and south-west: all beings of these ten directions,
Sabbe sattā, sabbe pāṇā, sabbe bhūtā, sabbe puggalā, Sabbe attabhāvapariyāpannā, sabbā itthiyo sabbe purisā, Sabbe ariyā, sabbe anariyā, sabbe devā, sabbe manussā, Sabbe amanussā, sabbe vinipātikā. All sentient beings, all animals, all living things, all who have been born, all women, all men, all ariyas (noble ones), all anariyas (non-noble ones), all humans, all non-humans and all beings of the netherworlds,
Averā hontu, abyāpajjā hontu, anīghā hontu, sukhī attānaṃ pariharantu. Be free from animosity, free from hatred, free from anger. May they all experience peace within themselves.


Thus cleansing oneself of all defilements and enjoying true peace and happiness, a Vipassana meditator bestows the wish that all other beings be happy and peaceful. When one undertakes the intensive practice of Vipassana in a ten-day course or longer, and cleanses his mind of craving and aversion, then with a gladdened heart and great delight one practises mettā bhāvanā, loving kindness, on the last day of the course. Many have read this from the Gita:



Adveśṭā sarvabhūtānāṃ maitrah karuṇa eva ca.


Without hatred towards all beings, with love and compassion. Now they learn the actual practice and become truly blessed by removing hatred towards all beings and generating love and compassion towards them. When they get an opportunity to actually become nirvairah sarvabhūtesu without enmity towards any being and put into practice sarvabhūtahite ratāh—engrossed in the welfare of all beings—they are overjoyed. A grateful and joyful heart gives rise to the wish that all should receive this peace and happiness—Mere sukha meṃ śānti meṃ, bhāga sabhī kā hoya.



May all beings—sukhino vā khemino hontu—be happy, be secure!
Ye keci pāṇabhūtatthi, tasā vā thāvarā anavasesā; Dīghā vā yeva mahantā vā, majjhimā rassakā aṇukathūlā. Diṭṭhā vā yeva adiṭṭhā, ye ca dūre vasanti avidūre; Bhūtā vā sambhavesī vā, sabbe sattā bhavantu sukhitattā.


Whether these beings are static or in motion; big, medium or small in size; gross or subtle in body; visible or invisible; far away or near; already born or in the womb—may they all be happy! ‘May all beings be happy! May all beings be peaceful! May all beings be liberated!’ The entire atmosphere of the meditation centre becomes charged with these wholesome vibrations of compassionate goodwill: May all beings be happy… be happy… be happy! May everyone be happy! May all visible and invisible beings attain welfare! May all beings of water, earth and sky be happy! May all beings of all the ten directions be happy! May all be without fear, without enmity, without affliction! When one practises loving kindness, one receives many benefits: one sleeps contentedly one gets up happily one does not have bad dreams one’s face acquires a glow (the countenance becomes pleasing) one is liked by many one dies with an alert mind full of peace and happiness one gets liberated from the cycle of becoming.



Diṭṭhaṃ va anupagamma—Because he does not get entangled in a false belief; Sīlavā dassanena sampanno—being endowed with upright character and wisdom, that is, Vipassana;




Kāmesu vineyyagedhaṃ—having eradicated craving for sensual pleasure and being fit to practise brahmacarya (a life of celibacy), he is born in the brahma realm after death; and practising Vipassana, he is liberated from there. He then experiences the ultimate happiness beyond all realms. Therefore:


Na hi jātu gabbhaseyyaṃ punareti—Because he is free from the cycle of becoming, he is free from the misery of punarapi jananī jaṭhare śayanam—falling repeatedly in a womb. * * * This munificent teaching of the Buddha—that enables one to live and die happily, and to attain the ultimate happiness of complete liberation—was not just called pessimistic, it was called extremely pessimistic. Its character was said to be not merely blemished but absolutely blackened. When someone of goodwill who has experienced the concrete benefit of the Buddha’s luminous inheritance reads these words of one’s own countrymen— Insistence of suffering is not peculiar to Buddhism, though the Buddha emphasised it overmuch. In the whole history of thought, no one has exaggerated the dark misery of human existence more than the Buddha. We cannot help feeling that the Buddha overemphasises the dark side of things. The Buddhist view of life seems to be lacking in courage and confidence. Its emphasis on sorrow, if not false, is not true. There is a tendency in Buddhism to blacken what is dark and darken what is grey. The outlook is restricted on principle to all that is sharp, bitter and painful in life. At the theoretical level, the vision of Buddhists is limited to the thorny, bitter and miserable aspect of life. —one cannot help but feel pained. When someone like me (who was previously so deluded by such pernicious beliefs) whose own life has been transformed by Vipassana and who has seen other people become happy by practising Vipassana, reads such distortions of the truth, he feels ashamed and full of regret. What a monstrous crime it was to castigate the blameless teaching of the Buddha. We kept blackening the stains we put on his teaching because we lost the peerless benediction that brought light to the dark, suffering world. Whatever has happened in the past is past. Fortunately, the original words of the Buddha and the practice of Vipassana were preserved in their pristine purity by our neighbouring countries and have now returned to India. The Buddha’s teaching is being accepted not only in India but also in the rest of the world. Come! Let us again welcome and re-establish the incomparable beneficial teaching of this great being for our own benefit, and for the benefit of so many others. In this lies the glory and honour of our country.