THICH HUYEN VI
THE FIVE SCIENCE (PAFICAVIDYA)
NAMO SAKYMUNI BUDDHASA
The most Venerable, friends,
People, particularly of the West, always criticize Buddhism as being negative. Truly speaking, Buddha’s Doctrines, as we know them through the three divisions of the Buddhist Canon (Tripitaka), show us the Buddhism’s spirit is endlessly positive and saves human beings. We have to recognize, however, that very few Buddhist Leaders in the past have been able to carry their full task. Being short of means and capacity for specialized talents, they only propagated the Dharma by means of their inner or special philosophy and could not enter into other social activities. For that reason, Buddhism was restricted to a few spheres of life and had practically no influence on the lives of the great majority of the people.
Especially in the distracted world of today the thoughts of people are very disturbed by the cost of living, mechanized economy, politics and other cultural causes if Buddhism is practiced in the old ways, Buddhism will disappear and will have no influence on the people of the world.
What I say here is not new but as old as Lord Buddha who taught his disciples more than 2,500 years ago. “You have to study and propagate the five sciences (Pancavidya) if you want to preach religion”. (1)
What are the five sciences? What is their importance? This is what we are going to discuss below.
What are the five sciences? The five sciences are five kinds of knowledge which every Buddhist should know and understand. What are they?
Buddhist rely on the Tripitaka and the twelve divisions of the Mahayana Canon that embody the inner or special philosophy.
It is a study of the alphabets, languages and characters, sounds and literatures. The propagation of our doctrine owes a lot to this branch of study. In ancient times the founders of a sect would spread the doctrines in other countries so they had to know several languages in order to be able to translate and compose. Thus, many doctrinal books have been handed down to us which were recognized as very useful by learned people. That is all due to languages.
In Buddhism, only the Dhyana-sect holds that language is of no use. But, all other schools regard the Sabda vidya as indispensable. The practitioners should have a thorough knowledge of literature, then they can follow the doctrine perfectly. The propagators must cultivate knowledge of language in order to translate, compose, preach and exchange the Buddhist culture all over the world.
Today, Buddhists in the West do need the Sabda-vidya. Buddhism in the West needs a Tripitaka in the English language in order to make material widely available for study and preaching. Thus, those who think of Buddhism should pay attention to the literary study and the study of languages in order to build the Buddhist international literature. We hope that at this Linh-Son Monastery, in the future, there is a language center for fulfilling this demand.
One of the five departments of knowledge dealing with the practical arts, e.g. the various crafts, mechanics, natural science, calculus, etc…
In order to know the art to propagate their faith, Buddhist should know the economic conditions of their countries. Only then, they can establish and spread the Dharma both in monks and laymen. Only then, they can express their compassion (metta) by organizing welfare work to help the poor and the physically disabled. Industries and technology are making more and more progress every day. Buddhists must learn of these things to be able to cope with modern conditions.
Technical and vocational education can help us in avoiding material problems. It can also help us in making material progress. It can help us root out poverty and disease but can also make contributions to the invention of terrible machines and bombs, and thus create trouble.
This subject deals with the method of treating diseases. The Buddha are excellent doctors and can cure not only physical but also mental diseases. The Bhaisajya Guruvaidurya-Prabhass Tathagata is the bright mirror. In this world there are many patients who suffer from material and spiritual diseases. The ways to treat the body, of course, are necessary, but medicines which cure the spirit are also very important. Buddhist who have enough time should study medicine for practicing it in society with compassion so that they can cure the ill. Medical doctors who are Buddhists have great means in their hands to propagate the Dharma. To bring consolation to the ill and to look after them when they get serious diseases are all acts which can help propagate Buddhism effectively.
We do hope that in the present Linh-Son Monastery will have the medical classes and the Buddhist Congregation will have a hospital managed by Buddhists themselves. They should be a medical organization to help people in crises.
It is the science of cause, logical reasoning, logic, with its syllogistic method of the proposition, the reason, and the example. To have a thorough knowledge of Buddhist studies is not enough. Since we should like to expose that doctrine clearly and be able to discuss things correctly, we have to learn the logical method. That is called the science of cause. This subject I think will teach in a future time.
Hetu-vidya deals with the investigation of the reasons of things. The great book of this basis study of Hetu-vidya is “Nyayad-varatarka sastra”, a treatise by Dignaga translated by Ven.I-Ching.
According to Hetu-Vidya, if we want to make a complete statement of an idea, we have to follow three parts of a syllogism: pratijna or proposition, Hetu or reason and udaharana or example. Proposition is the proposing. Reason is the cause of that proposal and examples are given to justify it. Examples are both direct and indirect. For instance:
Proposition Mr. A has to die,
Reason Because Mr. is born,
Example In general, who is born surely has to die, as Mr. A.
(“A similar example”). On the contrary, whoever is not born, the question of his death does not arise. He is not destroyed, for example, space (“A different example”) etc. “A similar example” means an example of the same (to have produced means to have lost) “A different example” is a different type (not born it is not death). Another comparison:
Proposition Mr. B will be punished.
Reason Because Mr. B is not learning the lesson.
Example Those who do not remember their lesson
Well will be punished, as Mr. C, Mr. D.
(Similar example). On the contrary whoever studies well will not be punished as Miss. Sita, Mr. Ram, etc…
We see here that this Hetu-vidya is nearly the same as the syllogism of the West; it may be more completed than the latter, because it comprises both methods: deductive and inductive. The three main parts of this logic have to be connected closely with one another. Reason is always to be related to proposition and should be absolutely characteristic of the same example. Moreover, the example must not interfere with the proposition and the reason. If all three are correct then we can avoid many mistakes.
We learn the Hetu- vidya for the purpose of judging truth and falsity, correcting the wrong ways for ourselves and others and making it easier to read books of the
Dharmalaksna sastra. In ancient time all the Sastra-writer followed this way when they wrote sastra.
A treatise on the inner meaning of Buddhism. First of all, those who want to propagate the Buddha-Dharma have to know the Buddhist Doctrines very well, which means to read the Tripitaka (Three basket). So, if we wish to propagate the Dharma and disseminate the doctrine everywhere in order to benefit living beings, we must first study the Buddhist Doctrines deeply. We know that if we do not understand the religious dogmas, we cannot practice them. We also have to know that the superstitions and ridiculous ideas in Buddhism are due to the followers’ lack of thorough knowledge of the inner Buddhist Doctrines. They do not know the main purpose of Buddhism so they do wrong actions, such as burning golden votive paper, consulting oracles, or a soothsayer, killing animals, making offerings to gods and ancestors, etc… In order to stop these things, Linh-Son Monastery opened the preaching of Buddhist studies. It teaches both systems of Buddhism that is, Mahayana and Theravada. Buddhists have to learn and understand that they should know what they are doing. If we do not understand, we will take the wrong path. Those who guide Buddhists without knowing the Buddhist Doctrines are very dangerous. We know that “One blind guide leads many people to the wrong way”. That is very dangerous.
The Sangha (Buddhist monks) must know all the Buddhist Doctrines. Even the laymen (Upasaka, upasika) should understand the Buddhist Doctrines, too. Young men or students should learn and practice the religious Teachings. We are very worried to see men who do not know the Buddha Dharma working to see men who do not know the Buddha Dharma working in Buddhist organizations or educational systems. They guide Buddhist Youth, Buddhist Students, Buddhist family, etc…but they are not fit for such things.
A Buddhist person, therefore, has to get a thorough knowledge of the special Buddhist Doctrines and to search, as well as study, the teachings of Buddha which are enshrined in the Tripitaka: Sutra, Vinaya and Abhidhamma. The sublime Doctrines in the three system:
Every doctrinal system has so much Dharmaparyaya or Wisdom of Buddha and they are all regarded as the doors to enlightenment. We should understand the Buddhist doctrinal systems and the ways to teach them to society. In short, to understand the Buddhist scriptures is the most important thing, thus Linh-Son Monastery opened the preaching of Buddhist Doctrine for a long time.
CONCLUSION: At present the Buddhist Society needs to know suitable ways to educate people and propagate the Dharma. We can hardly carry this out with inadequate means, so we have to enlarge the domain of education in Mahayana Buddhism. Buddhists should follow the five sciences (Panca-vidya) and everyone should be a soldier of the charitable society in order to construct an edifice of Buddhist faith and see to it that the teachings of the Shakyamuni Buddha can be propagated in prosperity.
Sabbe satta sukhi hontu!
May you be well and happy in the Dharma?