3. What is
Professor Ko Lay
distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma
The Suttanta Pitaka is a
collection of all the discourses in their entirety delivered by
the Buddha on various occasions. (A few discourses delivered by
some of the distinguished disciples of the Buddha, such as the
Venerable Sariputta, Maha Moggallana, Ananda, etc., as well as
some narratives are also included in the books of the Suttanta
Pitaka.) The discourses of the Buddha compiled together in the
Suttanta Pitaka were expounded to suit different occasions, for
various persons with different temperaments. Although the
discourses were mostly intended for the benefit of bhikkhus, and
deal with the practice of' the pure life and with the exposition
of the Teaching, there are also several other discourses which
deal with the material and moral progress of the lay disciples.
The Suttanta Pitaka brings out the
meaning of the Buddha's teachings, expresses them clearly,
protects and guards them against distortion and misconstruction.
Just like a string which serves as an plumb-line to guide the
carpenters in their work, just like a thread which protects
flowers from being scattered or dispersed when strung together by
it, likewise by means of' suttas, the meaning of Buddha's
teachings may be brought out clearly, grasped and understood
correctly and given perfect protection from being misconstrued.
The Suttanta Pitaka is divided
into five separate collections known as Nikayas. They are Digha
Nikaya, Majjhima Nikaya, Samyutta Nikaya, Anguttara Nikaya and
Observances and Practices in the Teaching of the Buddha
In the Suttanta Pitaka are found
not only the fundamentals of the Dhamma but also pragmatic
guidelines to make the Dhamma meaningful and applicable to daily
life. All observances and practices which form practical steps in
the Buddha's Noble Path of Eight Constituents lead to spiritual
purification at three levels:
Sila moral: purity through
Samadhi: purity of mind
through concentration (Samatha),
Panna: purity of Insight
To begin with, one must make the
right resolution to take refuge in the Buddha, to follow the
Buddha's Teaching, and to be guided by the Samgha. The first
disciples who made the declaration of faith in the Buddha and
committed themselves to follow his Teaching were the two merchant
brothers, Tapussa and Bhallika. They were travelling with their
followers in five hundred carts when they saw the Buddha in the
vicinity of' the Bodhi free after his Enlightenment. The two
merchants offered him honey rice cakes. Accepting their offering
and thus breaking the fast he had imposed on himself for seven
weeks, the Buddha made them his disciples by letting them recite
"Buddham Saranam Gacchami
(I take refuge in the Buddha)."
" Dhamman Saranam Gacchami
(I take refuge in the Dhamma ) "
This recitation became the formula
of declaration of faith in the Buddha and his Teaching. Later
when the Samgha became established, the formula was extended to
include the third commitment:
"Samgha Saranam Gacchami.
(I take refuge in the Samgha)."
(b) On the
right way to give alms
As a practical step, capable of
immediate and fruitful use by people in all walks of life, the
Buddha gave discourses on charity, alms-giving, explaining its
virtues and on the right way and the right attitude of mind with
which an offering is to be made for spiritual uplift. The
motivating force in an act of charity is the volition, the will
to give. Charity is a meritorious action that arises only cut of
volition. Without the will to give, there is no act of giving.
Volition in giving alms is of three types:
(i) The volition that starts with
the thought 'I shall make an offering' and that exists during the
period of preparations for making the offering - Pubba Cetana,
volition before the act.
(ii) The volition that arises at
the moment of making the offering while handing it over to the
donee - Munca Cetana, volition during the act.
(iii) The volition accompanying
the joy and rejoicing which arise during repeated recollection of
or reflection on the act of giving - Apara Cetana, volition after
Whether the offering is made in
homage to the living Buddha or to a minute particle of his relics
after his passing away, it is the volition, its strength and
purity that determine the nature of the result thereof.
There is also explained in the
discourses the wrong attitude of mind with which no act of
charity should be performed.
A donor should avoid looking down
on others who cannot make a similar offering; nor should he exult
over his own charity. Defiled by such unworthy thoughts, his
volition is only of inferior grade.
When the act of charity is
motivated by expectations of beneficial results of immediate
prosperity and happiness, or rebirth in higher existences, the
accompanying volition is classed as mediocre.
It is only when the good deed of
alms-giving is performed out of a spirit of renunciation,
motivated by thoughts of pure selflessness, aspiring only for
attainment to Nibbana where all suffering ends, that the volition
that brings about the act is regarded as of superior grade.
Examples abound in the discourses
concerning charity and modes of giving alms.
Purity through right conduct, Sila
Practice of Sila forms a most
fundamental aspect of Buddhism. It consists of practice of Right
Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood to purge oneself of
impure deeds, words and thoughts. Together with the commitment to
the Threefold Refuge (as described above) a Buddhist lay disciple
observes the Five Precepts by making a formal vow:
(i) I undertale to observe the
precept of abstaining from killings
(ii) I undertake to observe
the precept of abstaining from stealing.
(iii) I undertake to observe
the precept of abstaining from sexual misconduct.
(vi) I undertake to observe
the precept of abstaining from telling lies.
(v) I undertake to observe the
precept of abstaining from alcoholic drinks, drugs or
intoxicants that becloud the mind.
In addition to the negative aspect
of the above formula which emphasizes abstinence, there is also
the positive aspect of sila. For instance, we find in many
discourses the statement: 'He refrains from killing, puts aside
the cudgel and the sword; full of kindness and compassion he
lives for the welfare and happiness of all living things.' Every
precept laid down in the formula has these two aspects.
Depending upon the individual and
the stage of one's progress, other forms of precepts, namely,
Eight Precepts, Ten Precepts etc., may be observed. For the
bhikkhus of the Order, higher and advanced types of practices of
morality are laid down. The Five Precepts are to be always
observed by lay disciples who may occasionally enhance their
self-discipline by observing the Eight or Ten Precepts. For those
who have already embarked on the path of a holy life, the Ten
Precepts are essential preliminaries to further progress.
Sila of perfect purity serves as a
foundation for the next stage of progress, namely, Samadhi -
purity of mind through concentration-meditation.
Practical methods of mental cultivation for development of
Mental cultivation for spiritual
uplift consists of two steps. The first step is to purify the
mind from all defilements and corruption and to have it focused
on a point. A determined effort (Right Exertion) must be made to
narrow down the range of thoughts in the wavering, unsteady mind.
Then attention (Right Mindfulness or Attentiveness) must be fixed
on a selected object of meditation until one-pointedness of mind
(Right concentration) is achieved. In such a state, the mind
becomes freed from hindrances, pure, tranquil, powerful and
bright. It is then ready to advance to the second step by which
Magga Insight and Fruition may be attained in order to transcend
the state of woe and sorrow.
The Suttanta Pitaka records
numerous methods of Meditation to bring about one-pointedness of
mind. In the Suttas of the Pitaka are dispersed these methods of
meditation, explained by the Buddha sometimes singly, sometimes
collectively to suit the occasion and the purpose for which they
are recommended. The Buddha knew the diversity of character and
mental make-up of each individual, the different temperaments and
inclinations of those who approached him for guidance.
Accordingly he recommended different methods to different persons
to suit the special character and need of each individual.
The practice of mental cultivation
which results ultimately in one-pointedness of mind is known as
Samadhi Bhavana. Whoever wishes to develop Samadhi Bhavana must
have been established in the observance of the precepts, with the
senses controlled, calm and self-possessed, and must be
contented. Having been established in these four conditions he
selects a place suitable for meditation, a secluded spot. Then he
should sit cross-legged keeping his body erect and his mind
alert; he should start purifying his mind of five hindrances,
namely, sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness
and worry, and doubt, by choosing a meditation method suitable to
him, practising meditation with zeal and ardour. For instance,
with the Anapana method he keeps watching the incoming and
outgoing breath until he can have his mind fixed securely on the
breath at the tip of the nose.
When he realizes that the five
hindrances have been got rid of, he becomes gladdened, delighted,
calm and blissful. This is the beginning of samadhi,
concentration, which will further develop until it attains
one-pointedness of mind.
Thus one-pointedness of mind is
concentration of mind when it is aware of one object, and only
one of a wholesome, salutary nature. This is attained by the
practice of meditation upon one of the subjects recomended for
the purpose by the Buddha.
Practical methods of mental cultivation for development of
Insight Knowledge, panna
The subject and methods of
meditation as taught in the suttas of the Pitaka are designed
both for attainment of samadhi as well as for development of
Insight Knowledge, Vipassana as a direct path to Nibbana.
As a second step in the practice
of meditation, after achieving samadhi, when the concentrated
mind has become purified, firm and imperturbable, the meditator
directs and inclines his mind to Insight Knowledge, Vipassana
Nana. With this Insight Knowledge he discerns the three
characteristics of the phenomenal world, namely, Impermanence
(Anicca), Suffering (Dukkha) and Non-Self (Anatta).
As he advances in his practice and
his mind be comes more and more purified, firm and imperturbable,
he directs and inclines his mind to the knowledge of the
extinction of moral intoxicants, Asavakkhaya Nana. He then truly
understands dukkha, the cause of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha
and the path leading to the cessation of dukkha. He also comes to
understand fully the moral intoxicants (asavas) as they really
are, the cause of asavas, the cessation of asavas and the path
leading to the cessation of the asavas.
With this knowledge of extinction
of asavas he becomes liberated. The knowledge of liberation
arises in him. He knows that rebirth is no more, that he has
lived the holy life; he has done what he has to do for the
realization of Magga; there is nothing more for him to do for
such realization. The Buddha taught with only one object - the
extinction of Suffering and release from conditioned existence.
That object is to be obtained by the practice of meditation (for
Calm and Insight) as laid down in numerous suttas of the Suttanta Pitaka.