Tu Viện Quảng Đức105 Lynch Rd, Fawkner, Vic 3060. Australia. Tel: 9357 3544. quangduc@quangduc.com* Viện Chủ: TT Tâm Phương, Trụ Trì: TT Nguyên Tạng   

10. The Buddhist Scriptures

06/05/201109:51(Xem: 1475)
10. The Buddhist Scriptures

GOOD QUESTION, GOOD ANSWER

Bhikkhu Shravasti Dhammika

[10]

The Buddhist Scriptures

-ooOoo-

Nearly all religions have some kind of holy writings or Bible. What is the Buddhist holy book?

The sacred book of Buddhism is called the Tipitaka. It is written in an ancient Indian language called Pali which is very close to the language that the Buddha himself spoke. The Tripitaka is a very large book. The English translation of it takes up nearly forty volumes.

What does the Tipitaka mean?

It is made up of two words, timeans 'three' and pitakameans 'baskets'. The first part of the name refers to the fact that the Buddhist scriptures consist of three sections. The first section, called the Sutta Pitaka, contains all the Buddha's discourses as well as some by his enlightened disciples. The type of material in the Sutta Pitaka is very diverse which allows it to communicate the truths that the Buddha taught to all different types of people. Many of the Buddha's discourses are in the form of sermons while others are in the form of dialogues. Other parts like the Dhammapada present the Buddha's teachings through the medium of poetry. The Jatakas, to take another example, consist of delightful stories in which the main characters are often animals. The second section of the Tipitaka is called the Vinaya Pitaka. This contains the rules for monks and nuns, advice on monastic administration and procedure and the early history of the monastic order. The last section is called the Abhidhamma Pitaka. This is a complex and sophisticated attempt to analyse and classify all the constituents that make up the individual. Although the Abhidhamma is somewhat later than the first two sections of the Tipitaka it contains nothing that contradicts them.

Now for the word 'pitaka'. In ancient India construction workers used to move building materials from one place to another by means of a relay of baskets. They would put the baskets on their heads, walk some distance to the next worker, pass it to him, and he would repeat the process. Writing was known in the Buddha's time but as a medium it was considered less reliable than human memory. A book could rot in the monsoon damp or be eaten by white ants but a person's memory could last as long as they lived. Consequently, monks and nuns committed all the Buddha's teachings to memory and passed it on to each other just as construction workers passed earth and bricks to each other in baskets. This is why the three sections of the Buddhist scriptures are called baskets. After being preserved in this manner for several hundred years the Tipitaka was finally written down in about 100 B.C. in Sri Lanka.

If the scriptures were preserved in memory for so long they must be very unreliable. Much of the Buddha's teachings could have been lost or changed?

The preservation of the scriptures was a joint effort by the community of monks and nuns. They would meet together at regular intervals and chant parts or all of the Tipitaka. This made it virtually impossible for anything to be added or changed. Think of it like this. If a group of a hundred people know a song by heart and while they are all singing it one gets a verse wrong or tries to insert a new verse, what will happen? The sheer number of those who know the song correctly will prevent the odd one making any changes. It is also important to remember that in those days there were no T.V.'s, newspapers or advertising to distract and clutter the mind which together with the fact that monks and nuns meditated, meant that they had extremely good memories. Even today, long after books have come into use, there are still monks who can recite the whole Tipitaka by heart. Mengong Sayadaw of Burma is able to do this and he is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Recordsas having the world's best memory.

How important are the scriptures to Buddhists?

Buddhists do not consider the Tipitaka to be a divine, infallible revelation from a god, every word of which we must believe. Rather, it is a record of the teachings of a great man that offers explanations, advice, guidance and encouragement and which we should read thoughtfully and respectfully. Our aim should be to understand what the Tipitaka teaches, not just believe it and thus what the Buddha says should always be checked against our experience.

Before you mentioned the Dhammapada. What is it?

The Dhammapada is one of the smallest works in the first sections of the Tipitaka. The name could be translated as 'The Way of Truth' or 'Verses of Truth'. It consists of 423 verses, some pithy, some profound, some containing appealing similes, some of considerable beauty, all spoken by the Buddha. Consequently the Dhammapada is the most popular piece of Buddhist literature. It has been translated into most major languages and is recognised as one of the masterpieces of world religious literature.

Someone told me that you should never put a book of the scriptures on the floor or under your arm, but that it should always be placed in a high place. Is this true?

Until recently in Buddhist countries as in medieval Europe, books were rare and valuable objects. Therefore the scriptures were always treated with great respect and some of the customs you have mentioned are examples of this. However, while customs and traditional practices are alright, most people today would agree that the best way to respect the Buddhist scriptures would be to practice the teachings they contain.

I find it difficult to read the Buddhist scriptures. They seem to be long, repetitious and boring.

When we pick up a religious scripture we expect to read words of exaltations, joy or praise that will uplift and inspire us. Consequently, someone reading the Buddhist scriptures is likely to be a bit disappointed. While some of the Buddha's discourses contain considerable charm and beauty most resemble philosophical thesis with definitions of terms, carefully reasoned arguments, detailed advice on conduct or meditation and precisely stated truths. They are meant to appeal to the intellect, not the emotions. When we stop comparing the Buddhist scriptures to those of other religions we will see that they have their own kind of beauty - the beauty of clarity, of depth and of wisdom.

Gửi ý kiến của bạn
Tắt
Telex
VNI
Tên của bạn
Email của bạn
03/05/202118:04(Xem: 205)
As a child, my mother Enid often said to me, “There is no such thing as a silly question,” and then would add, “unless.” This latter word was left hanging, and I eventually realised that it was up to me to learn the depth of its meaning. At the same time that Enid was planting seeds for reflection, my first spiritual teacher, Ven. Lama Senge Tashi, encouraged me to cultivate more skilful thoughts, speech and actions. Sometimes I would try to verbally assert “I” or “Me,” and Lama would respond with, “Who is speaking?” or “Who is asking?”
03/05/202117:57(Xem: 169)
During the Covid-19 pandemic a dharma sister passed from this life. Her name was Robyn. Although she did not call herself a Buddhist, nevertheless, Robyn had a special connection with the deity Medicine Buddha. Over the six years that I worked with her, in my role as a hospital chaplain, Robyn frequently asked me to chant the mantra of Medicine Buddha and guide her through the visualisation. During her many stays in hospital, this particular practice brought comfort to her while she was experiencing chronic pain, anxiety and fear of the unknown. The medications she took would sometimes cloud her memory, so I would guide her through the details of the visualisation and begin chanting:
03/05/202117:52(Xem: 271)
Once, as I was about to hold a summer Dharma class on a beach, as the first students began to arrive for the session I picked up two rocks and carefully placed them, one on top of the other, on to a much larger rock base. Observing what I had just done, three students approached: a young married couple and their five year old son.
03/05/202117:48(Xem: 221)
True Seeing (Ven. Shih Jingang) One day, while Little Pebble and his Master were walking through a garden, the old teacher stopped to look at a white rose in full bloom. He motioned for his young disciple to join him, and they both sat down near where the flower was growing. ‘Little Pebble,’ said the Master, ‘when you look at this object, tell me what you think about it.’ ‘The flower is pretty,’ stated the boy. ‘I like it.’ ‘’’Flower,” you say. “Pretty, like it,” you say,’ replied the Master, looking to see how his young disciple reacted. Then he added, ‘Mind creates names like flower, and thoughts of like and dislike, pretty and ugly. This mind is small and closed, but if you can see beyond it to the nature of mind, then all is vast like space, completely open to all things. In this state of awareness, there is neither a flower nor a non-flower. Understand?’ But the young disciple did not quite understand, so his Master continued, ‘Little one, come here each day,
03/05/202117:44(Xem: 251)
One day, Little Pebble went to his teacher, and said, ‘Master, my friend’s dog Tiger died.’ The look on Little Pebble’s face told the old monk that he was troubled. ‘Little one, do you have any questions?’ ‘Master, where did Tiger go?’ ‘Where did you come from?’ asked the old monk. ‘From my mummy’s tummy.’ ‘And where did Mummy come from?’ Little Pebble couldn’t think of an answer. The Master regarded his young disciple for a moment, then said, ‘Remember, when you made shapes with mud and named them Mummy, Daddy, Master?’
03/05/202117:37(Xem: 302)
“Calling forth the Great Compassion, we are one with our True Nature; that which is directly Buddha, also indirectly Buddha. Oneness with the Triple Treasure, endless, joyous, perfect being. Morning thought is Kuan-Shih-Yin, evening thought is Kuan-Shih-Yin. All present thoughts arise from Mind, no thought exists apart from Mind.” These are the words of the Ten Verse Life-Prolonging Kuan-Yin Sutra. Who is reciting them? A few blocks away, an old man is crying out for help and someone hears. He is a brother, sister, father, mother from a previous life. A phone is picked up and then there are footsteps running towards the sound, “Help me! Help...” Someone sees the old man sitting on the top step, near the front door of his house.
03/05/202117:33(Xem: 215)
No past, no present, no future. All created things arise and pass away. All names and labels dissolve. You can observe this in meditation practice and, in experiencing impermanence in life and so-called death. At the conclusion of the Diamond Sutra, it is said that, this is how we should view our conditioned existence: as a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a drop of dew, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.
03/05/202117:25(Xem: 234)
Today I sit alone in a house. The government of the country in which I live has requested that I stay here in isolation for the health and safety of the community both here and abroad. Countless others are doing the same thing, except that some call it a forced lock down, or an obstacle to their free movement. I see this as an opportunity to practice. The Buddha taught that the suffering connected with birth, sickness, old age and death is a fact of life for sentient beings in Samsara. But so is the possibility of transcendence from Samsaric suffering. So, for a practitioner, the question is not just “Why?” but also “How?” Why do I/we suffer and, how do I/we overcome suffering? The answer to the former is found in intuitively recognizing (the 3 Poisons): harmful habits of attachment, anger and ignorance; and the answer to the latter lies in resolving to study and practice the Noble Eightfold Path (the antidote) and, fully realizing Buddhahood for the benefit of a
03/05/202117:10(Xem: 324)
In the Dhammapada, the Buddha says, “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.” The Covid-19 pandemic has given many millions of people worldwide time to reflect on their lives and habits of thought, speech and action. I know quite a few who have found a refuge of peace in their gardens. Cultivating, planting seeds, adding water and nutrients all help in maintaining a healthy garden. They are also a necessary part in taking care of our bodies. But what about the mind? Generosity, ethics, loving-kindness, compassion, meditative concentration and wisdom are the food for our inner spiritual garden. Without them there is no harvest, no fruit of Awakening, Buddhahood.
03/05/202117:07(Xem: 199)
As a child my parents encouraged questions, as did my Heart Lama. However, the latter person gave me two questions to ask before speaking: “will what I am wanting to say, and the way I say it, be helpful or harmful to myself/others? Also, does the question come from ‘I don’t know’ (beginner’s mind), or from a place of judgement and opinions?” The aim was/is to cultivate the mind to be like an empty vessel, not one filled to the brim and overflowing where nothing new can enter.