PROPAGATION OF THE SUBLIME DOCTRINE OF THE BUDDHA
THICH HUYEN VI
PROPAGATION OF THE SUBLIME DOCTRINE OF THE BUDDHA
NAMO SAKYAMUNI BUDDHASSA
VENERABLES, LADIEDS AND GENTLEMENT
Now, I am going to speak to you about “the Propagation of the Sublime Doctrine of the Buddha”. Sixth Century B.C. Was a landmark in many countries of the world for spiritual unrest and intellectual stir? It was in this century we found Lao Tzu and Confucius in China, Parmenides and Empedocles in Greece, Zarathustra in Iran, the Prophets in Israel, the Buddha and Mahavira in India. In that period many remarkable teachers appeared on the stage of the world and propounded their respective doctrines printed with new pointed of view.
The Buddha appeared on the scene with a new religion known as Buddhism. This religion was in revolt against the priesthood and Vedic ritualistic institutions that were prevalent in Buddha’s time, and were exercising great impact on the mind of the people. The particular spiritual atmosphere in which the Buddha found himself enveloped was the system of religion and philosophy of the Upanishads. This system laid stress more on knowledge (Janna) than on work (Karma). But then the Brahminic cult of ritualistic Karma had not fully ceased to work on the mind of the people. It was the Buddha who gave a clarion call to the people to shun the Brahminic cult of ritualistic Karma in his first Sermon (dharmacakra-pravartana) that he preached at Sarnath after he attained perfect knowledge (Sambodhi) at the age of thirty-five. But we cannot ignore the Ajivaka, the Jaina, and the Lokayata schools of Buddha’s time who lent support to some extent to the call of the Buddha. The profounder of the Ajivaka sect was Makkhali Gosala. He believed in the doctrine of Niyati (pre-destination of fate). According to him, all phenomena, physical or mental, are unalterably fixed. Therefore, it is all futile to put faith in Purusakara or human efforts. Niganthanataputta or Mahavira was the founder of the Jaina sect. The chief tenet of this sect was abstinence from giving pain to others in thought, word or deed. The founder of Lokayata School as Ajitakesakam-bali. He was out and out a materialist. He had no faith either in God or in soul. He had not the least leaning towards the Vedi-closres. Besides these three, there were three other religions leaders of the Buddha’s time. They were Sanjayablelatthiputta, Pakudhakac-cayana and Puranakasapa. The doctrines of all these six teachers could not stand the test of scrutiny of the Buddha. To him they appeared quite unsatisfactory and unappealing. The doctrines that the Buddha propounded stood supreme. The result was that the Buddha had a large following.
The events that led the Buddha to search after truth are well known to all. He was the son of King Suddhodana of Kapilavastu. He was brought up in luxury and was kept aloof from all sights that might cause him mental disgust and despondency. When he grew up he was given in marriage with an exquisitely beautiful princess named Yasodhara. In course of time, he had a son named Rahula. But in spite of all this he was not feeling happy. The prediction of Asita and other Brahminic astrologers that the newly-born son of Suddhodana would be a Buddha in the future was bound to be true. The legend has it that on four occasions he went out of his palace. On the first occasion he happened to see an old man and realized that he was subject to the frailties of age. On the second occasion he came across a sick man and felt, then and there, that he was liable to sickness. On the third occasion he saw a corpse and came to the conclusion that he was also subject to death. On the fourth occasion he saw an ascetic with a calm and serene face who was moving in traditional ways of the seekers after religious truth. The Buddha then took a vow to obtain freedom from old age, sickness and death by following the example of the ascetic, who told the Buddha, “I am a Sramana’s, a mendicant, whom the fear of birth and death has obliged to shun the life of a householder to attain liberation (Nara-pungava Janmamrtyu Brita Sramana’s pravrajito’smi moksa-hetoh). The sight of the ascetic without any of the comforts of life, but sound in body and cheerful in mind, left a great impact on the mind of the Buddha. He realized that the only goal worthy of man was the pursuit of religion which would set man free from suffering and fleeting pleasures of the world. He resolved to renounce the world and adopted a religious life. At the age of twenty-nine, he left the material luxuries of the Shaky a Kingdom, his beloved wife and his newly born son. After kicking away the three universal fetters of man, gold, woman and fame, he fled into the forest in order to find out the reality behind human suffering, its causes and the means by which it could be surmounted. Continuously, for six years, he devoted himself to the study of various abstruse doctrines, practiced the severest austerities reducing his body into a mere skeleton in the hope of attaining knowledge of truth, but to no avail. Ultimately he realized nayamatma balahinena labhyah and gave up ascetic practices, made himself fresh by taking a dip in the river Nairahjana, accepted the milk pudding offered by Sujata. After acquiring bodily health and mental strength he sat for seven weeks under the Bodhi Tree (in Buddhagaya) in deep and profound meditation. In the fourth part of one night his understanding opened and he attained enlightenment. Soon after the attainment of enlightenment he addressed himself as Tathagata (he who has arrived at the Truth).
Thus, Buddhism came into being. The Buddha taught the truth he had discovered without discrimination of caste, creed or color. Buddhism was accepted by the rich and the poor, the high and low, the intellectual and the dull alike. It spread far and wide in no time right from the lofty Himalayas down to Cape Comorin and reached, in due course, beyond the bounds of its place of origin to Ceylon, Burma, Siam, Malaya, Java, Sumatra and then again to Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, Korea, China, Vietnam and Japan. It took the form of a world-religion and worked as a great cultural force in Asia.
Of all the religions of the world, Buddhism sets forth a unique doctrine. It is here we find a clear cut philosophy of man and his universe. It shows the right way to the final goal of man and the freedom from bondage. It is indisputably a profound system of philosophy. This fact becomes apparent to a critical mind after a careful study of the Teachings of Lord Buddha. Schopenhauer says, “If I am to take the results of my own philosophy as the standard, I should be obliged to concede to Buddhism the pre-eminence over other systems of religions”. Buddhism may be regarded as a confluence of ethics, science and philosophy. These three things are interlaced into this system which is godless and soulless. It makes an attempt to unfold the mystery of life.
In course of time many philosophical schools of Buddhism came into being, having a wide range of literature. Under such circumstances it is very difficult to say with certitude what exactly the Teachings of the Buddha himself are and what are the expositions, enlargements and elaborations made upon them by the followers. The teachings of the Buddha were oral and were placed on record much later by his disciples. The Buddha was mainly an ethical teacher and a social reformer than a theoretical philosopher. He made reference to a good number of metaphysical views that were prevailing I his times and declared them as futile. We can glean a fairly good account of the Teachings of Lord Buddha. The doctrines that the Buddha preached may be said to be threefold, namely, the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path and the Doctrines of Dependent Origination.
The Four Noble Truths (Cattery ariya Saccani) are, dukkha (there is suffering), dukkha-sammudaya (there is cause of suffering), dukka-nirhodha (there is a cessation of suffering), and dukkha-nirodha-gamini patipada (there is way leading to the cessation of suffering). The Buddha said that life is full of suffering. That which is regarded as pleasure by the people ultimately leads to pain. If the attempt to preserve pleasure fails, great pain takes place. There is no denying the fact that this world is full of suffering. The Buddha says, “Now this, monks, is the noble truth of suffering; birth is painful, old age is painful, sickness is painful, death is painful, sorrow, lamentation, dejection, and despair are painful. Contact with unpleasant things are painful, not getting what one wishes is painful. In short, the five groups of grasping are painful”. Taking into consideration the second Noble Truth we find that everything has a cause. Nothing comes out of nothing is an impossibility. Everything exists depending on causes and conditions. Suffering is a fact and its existence depends on a cause. The Buddha says in this context, “Now this monks, is the noble truth of the cause of pain, the craving, which tends to rebirth, combined with pleasure and lust, finding pleasure here and there, namely, the craving for non-existence”. According to the third noble truth cessation of suffering can be brought about. Since everything comes into existence, depending on some causes and conditions, therefore, the removal of those causes and conditions will bring about the cessation of the effect. If there is no cause, there will be no effect. As production implies destruction, a conditional and relative entity being of a momentary nature must perish ultimately, so the Buddha says, “Now this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of pain, the cessation without a remainder of craving, the abandonment, forsaking, release, non-attachment”. The Fourth noble truth points to the path by following, which the cessation of suffering can be effected. There is an ethical and spiritual path by treading which suffering may be removed and liberation attained. The Buddha says, “Now this, monks, is the noble truth of the way that leads to the cessation of pain. This is the Noble Eightfold Way, namely, right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration”. This Eightfold path is open to the monks and lay devotees alike.
The Doctrine of Dependent Origination is technically known as Paticasamuppada. The basic idea of this doctrine is laid down in the following lines:
Imasmin sati, idam hoti; imassuppada idam uppajjati; Imasmin asati idam Na hoti; imassanirodha idam nirujjahati, or ‘This having not been, that does not come into existence, from the cessation of this that ceases to be? The Doctrine of Paticasamuppada is regarded as the foundation of all the teachings of the Buddha. It is implied in the second and the third Noble Truths, that is, the cause of suffering and the cessation of suffering. This Samsara is suffering. The cessation of suffering is nibbana. The doctrine of Dependent Origination is conceived as a chain having twelve links. It is due to these links that the circle of birth and death continues. By the cessation of the following one of these twelve links the preceding one ceases to be. This way ignorance, or avijja, becomes responsible ultimately for all human sorrows.
After attaining enlightenment the Buddha thought not to divulge the secrecy of the precious gem he had obtained after strenuous efforts, as he considered people quite unfit for understanding the value of what he had discovered. In other words, the Buddha, having discovered the new doctrine under the Bodhi Tree, first thought not to preach it to the people taking into consideration their incapability to understand the value of it… But, as the legend goes, the Sahampati Brahma appeared before him and implored him to preach his doctrine for the benefit of the suffering denizens of the world. And so was started the propagation of his doctrine by himself first. From Bodhi Gaya the Buddha went straight to Samantha and preached his first Sermon (Dharma-Carkappavattana) to the Pancavaggiya Bikkhu who were once his companions in searching after truth. Then, after he gave a clarion call in the following words to his sixty enlightened disciples to propagate the Dharma: ‘Caratha bhikkave carikam bahujanahitaya bahujana Suk kaya lokanukamya atthaya hitaya sukhaya devamanussanam. Maekena dve agamitha desetha bhikkave dhammam adikalyanam majjheka lyanam pariyosnakalyanam sattham savyanjanam Kavala paripunnum parisuddham brahmacariyan pakasetha”. Go you, O Bikkhu, for the good of many people, for the happiness of many persons, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, the good, and the happiness of the gods (Devas) and men (in general). Do not go two (of you) by the same way. O Bikkhu, preach the Dharma which is very pleasing in the beginning, in the middle and at the end. Expound with the spirit and the letter the Brahma faring entirely fulfilled, completely. What we find in this clarion call is that the Buddha admonished his disciples to undertake journeys with a view to propagating the doctrine he had discovered for the benefit of men and gods alike. The Buddha did not want his disciples to go to one direction in a group of two. It was due, perhaps, to the fact that the number of his disciples at that time was less than required and the tremendous task of the replied propagation of the Dharma was the need of the hour. Therefore, the Buddha exhorted his disciples to each go in one direction. Thus, we find that during the lifetime of the Buddha the preoperational work of his Dharma was done by him and his disciples. They did it by moving from one place to the other. It produced a good result. The Buddha had a large following in no time.
It is a well-known fact that so long as the Buddha was alive, he acted as the leader of the Buddhist Sangha. Any controversy taking place among his disciples was finally settled by him. But who would be leader of the Sangha after the death of the Buddha was a question which occurred to the mind of Ananda. When the Buddha asked about it replied that the Dharma and the Vinaya would work as the guide of the Sangha after his Mahaparinibbana.
The Buddha is now no more amidst us. But the Dharma and the Vinaya are there which were compiled soon after the Mahaparinibbana of the Buddha at Rajagaha in the first Buddhists Council. King Asoka was much too impressed with the teaching of the Buddha collected in the Dharma (Sutta Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka) and the Vinaya (Vinaya Pitaka). The result was that he accepted Buddhism. It was in his time the final compilation of the Pitaka was done in the third Buddhist Council at Pataliputta. It was in his time Buddhism spread beyond the bounds of India on account of his missionary zeal. He dispatched many religious missions to different corners of India and even beyond it’s bound to propagate Buddhism. It has been recorded that such missions were dispatched to the land of the Yavanas (Torjan Greeks), Gandhara, Kashmir, and the Himalaya regions in the North, to the western parts of India, such as Aparantaka, the southern parts, such as Varanasi and Mysore, and farther south to lands as far as Ceylon and Surarnabbumi, the Land of Gold (Malaya and Sumatra). These records tell in detail, particularly about the mission dispatched to Ceylon, where had been sent Mahendra, the son of Asoka, and Sangha-Metra, and the daughter of Asoka. This fact is confirmed by the thirteenth rock edict of Asoka wherein it is said that he tried to spread the Dharma not only in his territory but among the people of the border areas also in Kingdoms far off. Similarly, King Kaniska also did a lot for the spread of Sanskrit Buddhism which is known as Mahayana Buddhism.
Today there are different schools and sects of Buddhism, but all of them accept that the Buddha was the founder of this religion. It was him who strove and achieve supreme wisdom under the Bodhi Tree. It was him who pointed a way leading to final release from the world of suffering. This is the quintessence of the matter, the essential unity underlying many difference. Therefore, let all the followers of different sects come under one banner and strive hard for the propagation of Buddhism.
Today’s world is much too troubled. Under such circumstances the message of the Buddha gives us a call of hope. The Buddha declares, in clarion call, that peace cannot be achieved by methods of war. Jay am veram passivate, dukkham seti parajito (Victory breeds hatred, the defeated lived in sorrow). The Buddhist Pancasila is dead against killing under any circumstances. When we are not capable to give life, we have no right to take it. Thus, we see that it is Buddhism which can promote peace and harmony among men of this troubled world. Therefore, it is our first duty to propagate Buddhism.
We, the Buddhist monks, must follow in the footsteps of the Buddha and his enlightened disciples regarding the propagation of Buddhism. We must move in groups from one place to the other for the fulfillment of this noble mission. The Dharma and the Vinaya are there. They will be our guide in absence of the Master. Let us take a vow in this big assembly of monks and lay devotees that we shall leave no stone unturned for the propagation of the sublime doctrine of the Buddha to those places where it has not yet reached.
I appeal to those who are lay devotees in this assembly to emulate. Dhammasoka and Kaniska, with reference to the propagation of Buddhism, they must contribute their mite to this noble task.
Last but not least, I want to place a proposal before this great assembly. In my view the establishment of different Buddhist Organizations, say World Fellowship of Buddhist, World Sangha Council and so on, in different Buddhist countries is not conductive to an expect result in so far as the preservation and wide propagation of Buddhism are concerned. I am in favor of the establishment and stabilization of one such organization of world fame and the active participation by every Buddhist country in that in order to carry on Buddhist activities on sound footing. Thus the merger of the World Buddhist Sangha Council and such other organization functioning separately into the World Fellowship of Buddhists, or vice versa, is a desideratum from the viewpoint of accelerating Buddhist activities on a large scale in a well-organized form. I request you to excuse me for placing this proposal before you and consider its feasibility. To my mind this proposal seems to be pronated with appreciable results.
Let there be held every two years such organized Buddhist Conferences on world level, and let Buddhism promote peace and harmony among men of the globe.
YATO DHARMASTO JAYAH