(Public Talk 3, Part 1) (14 October 1951)
by Thray Sithu Sayagyi U Ba Khin
(In 1951, when Sayagyi was the Accountant General of Burma, he was requested by a religious study group to lecture on Teachings of the Buddha. The study group was headed by the information officer and the economic and finance officer of the Special Technical and Economic Division of the U.S. Government. Sayagyi presented a series of three lectures in Rangoon at the Methodist Church, Signal Pagoda Road. The following is abridged.)
My dear Dhamma brothers and sisters!
It will be recalled that in summing up my first lecture, I mentioned how Prince Siddhattha, the wandering ascetic, realized the truth and became Buddha. Lest you forget, I will repeat that portion again.
“Verily, Prince Siddhattha attained Samm± sambodhi and became Buddha, the Awakened One, the Enlightened One, the All-knowing One. He was awake in a way compared with which all others were asleep and dreaming. He was enlightened in a way compared with which all other men were stumbling and groping in the dark. He knew with a knowledge compared with which, what all other men knew was but a kind of ignorance.”
All religions, no doubt, claim to show the way to truth. In the teaching of the Buddha, as long as one has not realized the truth, i.e., the Four Noble Truths, one is in ignorance. It is
this ignorance (avijj±) that is responsible for the generation of mental forces (saªkh±r±) which regulate the life continuum (or conciousness) (viññ±ºa) in all sentient beings. Just as the life continuum is established in a new existence, mind and matter (n±ma and r³pa) appear automatically and correlatively. These, in turn, are developed into a vehicle or body with sense centres (sa¼±yatan±).
These sense centres give rise to contact (phassa); and the contact of these sense centres with sense objects gives rise to sense impressions (sensations) (vedan±) which have the effect of arousing desire (taºh±) followed closely by attachment or clinging to desire (up±d±na). It is this attachment or clinging to desire which is the cause of becoming (bhava) or existence, with the attendant birth, old age, illness, death, anxiety, agony, pains, etc., all of which denote “suffering.” In this way Buddha traced the origin of suffering to ignorance.
The Buddha said:
Ignorance is the origin of mental forces;
mental forces, the origin of the life continuum;
the life continuum, the origin of mind and matter;
mind and matter, the origin of the sense centres;
the sense centres, the origin of contact;
contact, the origin of impression [sensation];
impression [sensation], the origin of desire;
desire, the origin of attachment;
attachment, the origin of becoming (existence);
becoming (existence), the origin of birth;
birth, the origin of old age, illness, death, anxiety,
agony, pains, etc. (which are all suffering).
The truth of suffering is therefore something which must be experienced before it can be understood. For example, we all know from science that everything that exists is nothing
but vibration caused by the whirling movement of an infinite number of sub-atomic particles. But how many of us can persuade ourselves to believe that our own bodies are subject to the same law? Why not then try to feel things as they really are, in so far as they relate to yourself? One must be above the mere physical condition for this purpose. One must develop mental energy powerful enough to see things in their true state. With developed mental power, one can see through-and-through, more than what one can see with the help of the latest scientific instruments. If that be so, why should one not see what exactly is happening in one’s own self—the atoms, the electrons and what not—all changing fast and yet never ending. It is, of course, by no means easy.
In reality this suffering within is a sequel to the keen sense of feeling the vibration, radiation and friction of the atomic units experienced through the process of introspective meditation called Vipassana, with the aid of the powerful lens of sam±dhi. Not knowing this truth is indeed ignorance. Knowing this truth in its ultimate reality means destruction of the root cause of suffering: that is, ignorance, with all the links in the chain of causation ending with what we call “life,” with its characteristics of old age, illness, anxiety, agony, pains, and so on.
So much for the Law of Dependent Origination and the root cause of suffering.
Let us now turn our attention to the causal law of relations as expounded by the Buddha in the law of Paμμh±na of the Abhidhamma Piμaka. This is the law, in the course of the
analytical study of which, six coloured rays emerged from the person of Buddha during his uninterrupted meditation for fortynine days soon after the attainment of Buddhahood. We have five volumes of about five hundred pages each of P±li text on this very delicate subject. I will give here only just an idea of the law.
There are twenty-four types of relations on which the fundamental principles of cause and effect in Dhamma are based.
These are as follows:
1. condition (hetu) 2. object (±rammaºa)
3. dominance (adhipati) 4. contiguity (anantara)
5. immediate contiguity (samanantara)
6. coexistence (sahaj±ta) 7. reciprocity (aññamañña)
8. dependence (nissaya) 9. sufficing condition (upanissaya)
10. antecedence (purej±ta) 11. consequence (pacch±j±ta)
12. succession (±sevana) 13. action (kamma)
14. effect (vip±ka) 15. support (±h±ra)
16. control (indriya) 17. ecstasy (jh±na)
18. means (magga) 19. association (sampayutta)
20. dissociation (vippayutta)
21. presence (atthi) 22. absence (natthi)
23. abeyance (vigata) 24. continuance (avigata)
I will explain to you now about the correlation of hetu (condition) and kamma (action) and the effect produced by their causes as I understand them.
Hetu is the condition of the mind at one conscious moment of each kamma (action), whether physical, vocal or mental. Each kamma therefore produces a condition of mind which is either moral, immoral or neutral. This is what in Dhamma we call kusala dhamma, akusala dhamma and aby±kata dhamma. These dhammas are mere forces (i.e., mental forces), which collectively create the universe of mental forces.
Moral (kusala) forces are positive forces generated from kammas (actions, words and thoughts) motivated by such good deeds as alms-giving, welfare work, devotion, purification of mind, and so on.
Immoral (akusala) forces are negative forces generated from kammas (actions, words and thoughts) motivated by desire, greed, lust, anger, hatred, dissatisfaction, delusion, and so on.
Neutral (aby±kata) forces are neither moral nor immoral, as in the case of an Arahat who has got rid of all traces of ignorance (avijj±). In the case of an Arahat, contact (phassa) of sense objects with sense centres produces no reaction to sense impressions (vedan±) whatsoever, just as no impression is possible on flowing water which is ever changing. To him, the whole framework of the body is but an ever changing mass and any impression thereon automatically breaks away with the mass.
Let us now address the moral and immoral forces generated by conditioned actions with the planes of existence. For this purpose, I will classify the planes of existence roughly as follows:
Ar³pa and R³pa Brahm± Planes
These are beyond the range of sensuality. Supreme love, supreme compassion, supreme joy at others’success or greatness, and supreme equanimity of mind are the four qualities of mind which generate transcendently pure, brilliant and extremely pleasing, cool and light mental forces which find their location in the highest of the planes of existence. This is the reason why in these planes matter is superfine and there is nothing but radiance. The vehicles or bodies of the brahm±s cannot be identified with matter, but with radiation or light.
The Sensuous Planes
These consist of:
1. planes of celestial beings
2. human world
3. planes of lower forms of existence
Planes of Celestial Beings
All good or meritorious deeds, words or thoughts which have a taint of desire for future well-being create moral mental forces which are considerably pure, luminous, pleasant and light. These find their location in the higher planes of celestial beings where matter is fine, luminous, pleasant and light. These celestial beings therefore have astral bodies varying in fineness, luminosity and colour according to the planes to which they belong. Ordinarily they live in heavenly bliss until their own moral mental forces are consumed; then they revert to the lower planes of existence.
Planes of the Lower Forms of Existence
I will now pass on to the lower forms of existence and I will come to the human world last.
All malicious, evil, demeritorious actions, words and thoughts create mental forces which are by nature impure, dark, fiery, heavy and hard. The most impure, dark, fiery, heavy and hard mental forces should therefore find their place in hell, the lowest of the four planes of existence.
The matter in these planes must therefore be hard, crude, unpleasant and hot. The human world is just above the concentration of these forces, which are meant for consumption (to be experienced) by those beings destined for the lower forms of existence. These beings, with the exception of those in the animal world, are invisible to the ordinary human eye but visible to those who have developed the higher powers of sam±dhi and secured the divine eye. Here suffering, both physical and mental predominates. This is just the reverse of what happens in the planes of celestial beings.
Now I come to the human world, this half-way house between heaven and hell. We experience pleasure and pain mixed together in degrees, as determined by our own past kamma. From here, we can, by developing our mental attitude, draw in our own mental forces that are in the higher planes. It is also from here that we can go down to the depths of depravity and tune up with the forces of the lower order.
There is no such constancy as in the other planes of existence. One may be a saint today, but he can be a rogue thereafter. He may be rich today, but he may soon become poor. The vicissitudes of life here are very conspicuous. There is no man who is stable, no family which is stable, no community which is stable, no nation which is stable.
All are subject to the law of kamma. As this kamma comes out of “mind” which is ever-changing, the effects of kamma must necessarily also be changing.
As long as man has inherent impurities in him and dies with the mental attitude tuned up with the mental forces of a plane of lower existence; then, at the last moment of his death, the next existence is automatically in that lower plane to clear, one might say, his debit account of mental forces there.
On the other hand if, at the moment of death, his mental attitude is associated with the forces in the human world, the next existence can be in the human world again. If, however, his mental attitude at the last moment of death is associated with the reminiscence of his good deeds, the next existence will normally be in the celestial world where one enjoys the credit balance of ones own mental forces there. One goes to the brahm± world, if at the moment of death his mind is not sensual, but is pure and tranquil. This is how kamma plays its role in Dhamma with mathematical precision.
These, ladies and gentlemen, are the essential teachings of Buddha. How these teachings affect the individual depends on how one takes them. The same applies to the family, the community or the people in general. We have followers of the Buddha in faith and followers of the Buddha in practice. Yet there is another class of followers who are simply labelled followers of the Buddha by birth. Only followers of the Buddha in actual practice can secure the change in mental attitude and outlook. Let them only observe the five precepts; they are the followers of the teachings of Buddha. If this were followed by all the Buddhists in Burma, there would be no internecine strife such as we are having here in Burma. But there is another disturbing factor: that is, the bodily requirements. One must have the bare necessities of life. Life is more precious to him than anything else. The tendency therefore is to break the laws of discipline, whether religious or governmental, for one’s self-preservation and for the preservation of others depending on him.
What is most essential is the generation of pure and good mental forces to combat the evil mental forces which dominate mankind. This is by no means easy. One cannot rise to the level of pure mental attitude without the help of a teacher. If we want effective power to combat these forces, we must work for it according to Dhamma. Modern science has given us, for what it is worth, the atomic bomb, the most wonderful and yet at the same time the most dreadful product of man’s intelligence. Is man using his intelligence in the right direction? Is he creating good or bad mental forces, according to the spirit of the Dhamma? It is our will that decides how and upon what subject we shall use intelligence. Instead of using intelligence only for the conquest of atomic energy in matter without, why not use it also for the conquest of atomic energy within?
This will give us the “peace within” and enable us to share it with all others. We will then radiate such powerful and purified mental forces as will successfully counteract the evil forces which are all around us. Just as the light of a single candle has the power to dispel darkness in a room, so also the light developed in one man can help dispel the darkness in several others.
To imagine that good can be done by the means of evil is an illusion, a nightmare. The case in point is that of Korea. For all the loss of lives on both sides, now over one million, are we nearer to, or further away from peace? These are the lessons which we have learned. Change of mankind’s mental attitude through Dhamma is the solution. What is necessary at the moment is mastery over the mind and not only mastery over matter.
(To be continued in the next issue)
-- From the ‘Sayagyi U Ba Khin Journal’
Hara harakata ke m³la men, k±raºa sacc± dekha, Bina k±raºa sans±ra men, patt± hile na eka.
- See the real cause of every event or action, Nothing happens in the world without a cause, not even a leaf shakes without it.
Jo c±he sukha n± ghaμe, hoya dukhon k± n±oea, D±s² bana t¥OEº± rahe, mata bana t¥OEº± d±sa.
- Whoever wants suffering to be eliminated and happiness not reduced, Let him not become a slave of desire but let him see that desire becomes his maid servant.
Dukha k±raºa duOEkarma hai, dukha karaºa n± deva, To phira apane karma ko, kyon na svaccha kara leva.
- The cause of suffering is one’s unwholesome actions, not any outside god, Knowing this why does one not purify one’s actions?
Dukha k± k±raºa d³ra kara, p±y² sukha k² kh±na, Duhkha niv±raºa kara liy±, pulakita tana- mana-pr±ºa.
- Removing the cause of suffering I became abundantly happy, Now that I have eradicated suffering, both my body and mind are suffused with happiness
Sabbe saªkh±r± dukkh±’ti, Yad± paññ±ya passati; Atha nibbindati dukkhe, esa maggo visuddhiy±.
- Dhammapada- 278, Magga vagga.
- “Unsatisfactory are all conditioned things”– when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.
An±p±na given to Indian Navy Trainees at INS Chilika, Odisha
About 3000 Indian Navy Trainees and Navy Officers at INS CHILIKA, Odisha took Anapana and listened to an introduction to Vipassana. They all have reported that they have benefited from the Anapana session. Their Group Officers will be monitoring them on day to day basis and will see that they continue daily practice. It is a good opportunity to serve the nation and mankind as well. Dhamma Bhubaneshwar arranged this event with the help of Indian Navy.
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One-day Mega course schedule at Global Vipassana Pagoda for 2018
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DATE OF PRINTING: 15 May, 2018, DATE OF PUBLICATION: 29 May, 2018