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The Indian Religious Background and the Emergence of Buddhism

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Postgraduate Diploma in Buddhist Studies



The Indian Religious Background and the Emergence of Buddhism




Prof. Ratne Wijetunge

Thursday 4:00-5:00 PM.







1.        Hiriyanna, M. Outline of Indian Philosophy. Delhi; Motilal Banarsidass

    Publishers, 2005.


2.       S. Radha Krishnan, History of Indian Philosophy.


3.      Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism.






























Lecture 1 (Feb. 23, 2006)






       We are going to discuss about two factors: Indian Religious Background and Emergence of Buddhism. The emergence of Buddhism in India was not a sudden event. It did not take immediately at once. It had very significant relations with other religious thoughts in India. There were other religions which had been practiced by Indian people before Buddhism emerged. What were these religions and how did they have influence on Buddhism?



Indian Religious Background

(Evidence from life of the Bodhisatta)



1. Asceticism


       When we read the life stories of the Buddha, we can find some references of the ascetics: when the prince Siddhartha was born, the ascetic named “Kāladevala,” the king Suddhona’s tutor, visited the palace in order to see the newly born child; After the prince left the palace,[1] he met the first master named “Alārakalāma,” and under his directions Siddhartha achieved the mental stage of Nothingness (ākiññāyatana); then he left his first master in order to find the truth through which he could solve the fundamental human problem. He met another ascetic named “Uddakarāmaputta,” and under his training soon achieved the stage of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception (neva sañña nāsaññāyatana).


       On the way of continuing journey to seek the truth, the prince met another ascetic “Upaka[2] and other “5 ascetics” who did severe practices with him for a while and eventually became his disciples later. The conversion of ascetic Upaka and 5 ascetics to the Buddha indicates that there were many sincere religious ascetics who kept a great flexibility to accept the truth.



2. Brahmanism


       There was a group of Brahmins who were invited to the naming ceremony of the prince; among them the youngest Brahmin named “Kondañña” gave the prediction that the newly born prince will become the universal monarch or attain the Buddha-hood.


According to the Buddhist stories, when the Buddha was hesitating whether or not he would go to preach others after he got enlightenment, the Brahman god came to persuade him to save the people in darkness. So the Buddha went to give his first teachings to the 5 ascetics mentioned above and continued to preach for his whole life.

3. Implication of those names


The famous three leaders of ājivaka group also became the disciples of the Buddha. Their names are Nadi Kassapa, Gayā Kassapa and Uruvela Kassapa. The different names of ascetics and Brahmins come across in the life of the Buddha indicate that different religious thoughts and practices were prevailed before the Buddhism arose. The representatives of these various ways of searching the salvation were called jatila, ājivaka, Brahmins, shramana, and bhikshus.[3] They attempted to find the solution of the human suffering before the Buddha. They are the religious background of the emergence of Buddhism in India.



Lecture 2 (March 2, 2006)



Hinduism: Its Origin and Development



       Today we will try to summarize the religious atmosphere in India. We can say that there were three main streams of Indian religion by the 6th century B.C. These streams have developed throughout the history and still exist in the today’s Indian society. We can trace the origin of these three streams of religion up to the Vedic period about 1500 B.C.



Three Streams of Indian Religion



1. Rituals


Rituals are associated with sacrifices and performed to please gods and deities. These rituals of worshiping deities retained the primitive and magical character.



2. Asceticism


This is associated with practices of self-mortification which was considered as a means of purifying the soul (atma) and a way to attain the supernatural powers. According to the tradition of Hinduism, one should follow the strict discipline such as observing chastity, eating only to support life, and torturing the body in order to gain the divine power. They believed that by observing severe austerities they could gain clearer insight into the divine mysteries and to control over the forces of nature. This ascetic practices were usually commenced by the persons who renounced the world.[4]



3. Development of Knowledge


At this stage people attempted to achieve happiness and salvation through the development of knowledge. People tried to deepen their understanding of God and souls in order to reach the highest level of knowledge. Gradually faith and devotion to a particular deity became prominent in Hinduism.


       As we examined above, the Buddha also went through these three main streams of religious movements: lots of rituals at the palace, a strong ascetic life after he left home, and development of super-mundane power of knowledge.[5] These streams are still prevailed in India today.



The History of Religious Background

(Development of Indian Thoughts and Rituals)



1. The Migration of Indo-Aryans


       The religious background of Indo-Aryans, who migrated to India from Europe, can be combined with that of Iranians and Indo-Europeans. Some time during the millennium 3000-2000 B.C. a group of Aryans known as Indo-Iranians migrated to Asia from Europe. Indo-Aryans came to India and Iranians to Iran. There is a similarity among some terms related to gods and rituals used by the people belonging to theses groups as following examples:


Sanskrit: dyaus (the sky god), deva (god); Latin: Deus (god); Greek: Zeus (god).

Sanskrit: yajna (sacrifice in Veda); Avestan[6]: yasna.

Sanskrit: mitra (sun god); Avestan: mithra.

Sanskrit: hotr (priest); Avestan: Zaotar.

Sanskrit: atharvan (a Veda); Avestan: athravan.


These similar terms indicates that they had a common belief and concept of gods and deities. Therefore, when the Indo-Aryans moved and settled in India, they developed those terms and concepts through the Vedic literature.



2. Vedic Literature


It is crucially important to read Vedic literature for examining the Indian religious background. When we talk of the Vedic literature, we must include four categories of literatures: the Veda (1500-2000 B.C.), BrŒhmaöa, Āraöyaka, and Upani·ad.


The first development was done in the four Veda texts. The most important Veda is the oldest one called ôg-Veda. It is a collection (samhita) of 1,017 hymns (sèktas) written in verse form. They are divided into 10 circles (maöalas). The hymns are addressed to gods such as Agni, Indra and Soma. Yajur-Veda text contains formulas mainly composed in prose to be muttered during the course of sacrifice and it serves liturgical purpose. Sāma-Veda is also a liturgical collection composed in verse and arranged for singing I sacrifices. Atharva-Veda text contains charms. It shows the result of the comprising spirit adopted by the Vedic Aryans in view of the new gods and goblins worshipped by the original peoples of the country.


Each Veda consists of three parts: Mantra, BrŒhmaöa, and Upani·ad. The collection of mantras and hymns is called Samhitya. The BrŒhmaöas include the precepts and religious duties. The Āraöyakas and Upani·ads include the discussions in relation to the philosophical problems. The Āraöyakas come between the BrŒhmaöas and Upani·ads. They are intended to serve as objects of meditation for those live in forests. The BrŒhmaöas discussed the rituals to be observed by the householder, but when in his old age he resorts to the forests, some substitute for ritual is needed and that is supplied in the Āraöyakas. The Upani·ads depict the mental background of the whole of the subsequent development of India. The Āraöyakas form the transition link between the ritual of the BrŒhmaöas and the philosophy of the Upani·ads. Vedic hymns are the creation of the poets, the BrŒhmaöas are the work of the priests, and the Upani·ads are the meditation of the philosophers. Etymology of the Upani·ad: sitting (sad)-near by(upa)-devotedly(ni). It is a secret instruction imparted at private sittings.


       In short, there were four stages of the development of religious thoughts in India which were remarked in the Vedic literatures.[7] We can note that the third and fourth categories (Āraöyaka and Upani·ad) reflect the dissatisfaction of people with rituals and ceremonies. We can divide those four stages of development as three periods:


       At first Vedic period they just praised natural objects, and gradually deify them. In BrŒhmana period the priests created lots of rituals in order to satisfy gods and deities. In this period, some people who were not satisfied with the complicated rituals gave up the householder life and entered into the forest becoming ascetics called Āraöyaka. Then at the final stage the real philosophers among them flourished in Upani·ad period. We have to understand that this development was gradual and a long process.





The Teachings of the Veda

(Its Philosophical Tendencies and Theological Concepts)



       ôg-Veda collection has a heterogeneous nature representing a work of successive generations of thinkers and containing different strata of thought. It represents the religion of an unsophisticated age. Many hymns are simple and naive; express the religious consciousness of mind, free from the later sophistication. Monotheism characterizes some of the hymns in the Rig-Veda: several gods were looked upon as the different names and expressions of the universal being. Later religious development arose out of the crude suggestions and elementary moral ideas and spiritual aspirations of the early mind. BrŒhmaöas and Upani·ads developed on these views. Worship of the outward nature powers developed into spiritual religion at a later stage of Upani·ads. Also the development of external nature worship to the internal can be seen in Upani·ads.


       We find in Rig-Veda the impassioned utterances of primitive but poetic thought. They attempt to explain the mysteries of the world not by means of super-human insight. They depict the beauties of the sky and wonders of the earth. At this stage attempts can bee seen to adjust the world to their own purpose. Men sat down and began to doubt the gods they ignorantly worshipped and reflected on the mysteries of life. People at this stage began to put questions to which the mind of men could not give adequate answers. The permanent elements of the world are deified, and thus cosmology became confuse with religion.


       Theologically we find the polytheistic character of ôg-Veda hymns. A great many word are named and worshipped. Even the word god (deva) became elusive and indicated many different things. For example, god (deva) denoted the meaning of someone who gives to man, or the learned man who imparts the knowledge, or the parents, or the guest.[8] Man became dependent on the mighty forces of the nature and there he felt the reality of the presence of god. The son, moon and stars and law and men are turned into gods. Naturalism and anthropomorphism seem to be the first stage of Vedic religion.


       (From the Buddhist point of view, there is no Monotheism but accept many gods who consist of the world of deities. There are many words indicating this Polytheism in the Buddhist texts: ŒkŒsa  hŒca (living in heaven), bhumma  hŒ (living on the earth), devŒ (gods), nŒgŒ (cobra gods), mahiddhikŒ (one who has a miraculous power), and rukkha devŒtŒ (tree gods). Karaniya Metta Sutta (Suttanipada of KhuddakanikŒya) also contains the terms which denote the polytheistic thoughts of Buddhism: yŒnīdha bhètŒni samŒgatŒni (whoever beings assembled) bhummŒni vŒ yŒniva antalikkhe (whoever beings living on the earth or in the air) sabbeva bhètŒ sumanŒ bhavantu (may all the Buddha be happy) athopi sakkacca sunnanta bhŒsitaµ (then please hear in a good manner what is taught).







Lecture 3-4 (March 16, 2006)



Deification of Natural Objects



1. Earth and Heaven


       Earth and heaven are considered to be universal parents who give life to all creatures and grant them the means of subsistence. In the ôg-Veda the heaven and earth are generally addressed in dual number forming one concept; the sun, dawn, the fire, the wind and the rain were their offspring. Heaven and earth are parents of men and gods. Gradually the question arose regarding the creator of earth and heaven. This creative power is assigned to Agni (fire), Indra and Soma.



2. Varuna


       Varuna is God of sky: the term var means “to cover” which is identical with the Greek term aouranos and the term Ahuramazda in Avestan. Varuna’s constant companion is mitra. When they are used together, express night and day. He is the moral god in the Veda: he punishes the evil doers and forgives the sins of those who implore his pardon. Varuna is omniscient, he sees everything. He is the supreme God, the god of gods, harsh to the guilty and gracious to the penitent. He resembles to divine ruler of a monotheistic belief of an exalted type.



3. ôta


       ôta stands for law in general and the immanence of justice. Originally it was suggested by the regularity of the movements of sun, moon and stars, the alternation of day and night, and the seasons. Rta originally meant the “established route of the world, moon and stars, morning and evening, day and night.” Gradually it became the path of morality to be followed by the men and the law of righteousness observed even by gods.



4. Mitra


       Mistra is the companion of Varuna and generally invoked along with him. He represents sometimes the sun and sometimes the light. Mitra and Varuna are joint keepers of ôta and forgivers of sin. Gradually, Mitra comes to be associated with the morning light and Varuna with the night sky.



5. Surya


       Surya is the sun god: worship of sun is natural to the human mind; he rouses men to perform their activities, dispels darkness and gives light. Surya became the creator of the world and its governor. Surya in the form of Vi·öu supports the entire world. Vi·öu is the god of three strides: he covers the earth, heaven and highest worlds visible to mortals. None can reach the limits of his greatness. The basis of Vai·öavism can be found in the ôg-Veda.



6. Savitr


       Savitr is a solar deity: he is described as golden-eyed, golden-handed and golden-tongued, and distinguished form the sun though often identified with him. Savitr represents not only the bright sun, but also the invisible sun of night.



7. Pusan: Punsan is also a solar god: a friend of man, being a pastoral god and the guardian of cattle.



8. Asvins: Avins are inseparable twins, the children of heaven. The dawn is their sister.



9. Aditi


       Aiditi literally means unbound or unlimited. ôg-Veda says, “Aditi is the sky; Aditi is the intermediate region; Aditi is the father and mother and son; Aditi is all gods; Aditi is whatever has been born; Aditi is whatever shall be born.”



10. Agni


       Agni means fire: it comes from clouds as lightning and from fire sticks. The physical description of Agni: he possesses a tawny beard, sharp jaws, and burning teeth. Wood or ghee is his food. Agni is seen to dwell not only on earth in the hearth and alter, but also in the sky and atmosphere as the sun and dawn, lightning in the clouds. He became a supreme god, stretching out heaven and earth. He became the mediator between gods and men, the helper of all.



11. Soma


Soma is the god of vine and grape: he is found as Haoma in Avesta; Dionysus in Greece; all these are the cults of intoxicants. The miserable man requires something or other to drown his sorrows in. It is believed that men can attain the divinity through physical intoxication.



12. Yama


       Yama is the chief of the dead, not so much a god as a ruler of the dead. He was the first of mortals to die and find his way to the other world, the first to tread the path of the fathers. Later he acts as the host receiving new comers.



13. Parjanya


       Parjanya originally was Aryan sky god; then he became Indra after the Aryans entered India. Parjanya is another name for the sky.



14. Indra


       Indra is the most popular god of the Vedas. Indra is the god of atmospheric phenomena of the blue sky. Indra wields the thunder-bolt, and conquers darkness; he brings us light and life; gives a vigor and freshness. Heaven bows before him and earth trembles at his approach. Indra is unknown to the other members of the Aryan family.[9] Gradually Indra became the divine spirit, the ruler of the entire world and all the creatures, who sees and hears everything, and inspires with their best thoughts and impulses.



Lecture 5 (March 23, 2006)


Deification of Natural Objects



15. U·as


       U·as is the goddess of dawn. She cuts short the little lives of men. Obeying the behests of gods, but wasting away the lives of mortals, U·as has shone forth-the last of many former dawns and the first of those that are yet to come.[10]



16. Aditi (goddess): The same as Aditi god. She extends everywhere, limitless, unbounded.



17. Sindhu and Saraswathi


       The river Sindhu was celebrated as a goddess. Similarly, the river Saraswati was the name of a particular river; but gradually became the goddess of learning (wisdom). The novices had chanting with name of Sraswati before study, and then they started learning.



18. Aranyani: Aranyani is the goddess of forest.[11]


19. Vak: Vak is the goddess of speech.



Abstract Deities


20. Manyu: mind


21. Sraddha: belief, faith


According to Vedic literature, there are 333 gods who living in three locations: heaven, midair, and earth. At the Vedic period, people personalized and deified the natural objects; now in Brahmana period the concepts of gods had gradually changed.


Certain qualities associated with the true conception of gods are deified. When thought advanced from material to the spiritual, from the physical to the personal, it was easy to conceive of abstract gods.



Development of the Vedic Literature



       There are number of books known as BrŒhmaöa, Āraöyaka, and Upani·ad belonging to each Veda. These books are divided into three groups as follows depending upon their development:


1. The First Group


       ôg-Veda: Aitareya BrŒhmana, Aitareya Āraöyaka, Aitareya Upani·ad.

                       Kausitaki BrŒhmana, Kausitaki Āraöyaka, Kausitaki Upani·ad.


       Kr·na Yajurveda[12]: Taittiriya BrŒhmana, Taittiriya Āraöyaka, Taittiriya

Upani·ad. Mahanarayana Upani·ad.


       Sukla Yajurveda: Satapatha BrŒhmana, Brhadaranyaka.


       SŒma-Veda: Tandya Maha BrŒhmana, Chandogya Upani·ad.

                       Jaiminiya Upanisad BrŒhmana, Kena Upani·ad.


       Among these texts, Aitareya, Kausitaki, Taittiriya, Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya, and Kena are considered to be oldest Upani·ads. Mahanarayana Upani·ad is a later development.


2. The Second Group


       Kr·na Yajurveda: Kathaka (Katha) Upani·ad, Svetasvatara Upani·ad,

Taittiriya Āraöyaka, Mahanarayana Upani·ad.


       Sukla Yajurveda: (Vajasaneyi Samhita) Isa Upani·ad.


       Atharva-Veda: Mundaka Upani·ad, Prasna Upani·ad.

3. The Third Group


       Kr·na Yajurveda: Maitrayani Upani·ad.


Atharva-Veda: Mandukya Upani·ad.



       As the order of texts show, the Āranyakas come between the BrŒhmanas and the Upani·ads, and as their name implies, are intended to serve as objects of meditation for those who live in forests. The BrŒhmanas discuss the ritual to be observed by the householder.[13]


       Atharva-Veda is considered to depict the ideas of demonology prevalent among the superstitious tribes in India. It includes the demons embraced under the general name Raksas; they are objects of horror, whom the gods ward off and destroy. Further this text introduces strange gods, incarnations for evil purposes and charms for worthy purpose, magical verses to obtain children, to prolong life, to dispel evil magic, to guard against poison and other ills and recognizes a hell of torture (Naraka).



Development of Rituals and Liturgy



       Yajur-Veda, SŒma-Veda, and BrŒhmanas are important texts in this regard. They all describe the sacrificial liturgy. The Yajur-Veda gives the special formulas to be uttered when the alter is to be erected. The SŒma-Veda describes songs to be chanted at the sacrifice. The BrŒhmana texts includes sacrificial liturgy in detail.


       During the BrŒhmana period, as the idea of sacrifice became dominant, the position of the priest became exalted. The priest becomes the lord of the sacrifice. It was necessary for him to have special training in sacrificial ceremonials. Sacrificial ceremonies could not be conducted by the patriarchal head of the family any more. Thus the priesthood became a profession and an hereditary one. The priests who possessed the Vedic lore became the accredited intermediaries between gods and men and the dispensers of the divine grace. They attributed their knowledge of rituals and ceremonies to the gods.


       The householder who performs the sacrificial rites is known as Yajamana. In Vedic period, he could do ceremony by himself; but now in BrŒhmana period, he has to invite the priest. The assistance of priests is needed for the ceremony. The householder must offer gifts (daksina) such as money or other requisites to the priest. The reasons for the performance of rites and rituals can be related to the household, wedding, funeral, prosperity of wealth and property or acquiring a herd of cattle.


       Four priests are needed to perform the sacrifice known as srauta (based on sruta: wisdom received from gods). Four priests are called as thus: hotr, person who invites or summons gods by reciting hymns of the ôg-Veda; udgatr, person who does recitation of Sama text while preparing the Soma drink and other offerings; Adhvaryu, the director of the sacrifice and his duty is to recite Yajur-Veda texts; BrŒhman, the protector of yaga (sacrifice) from evils. BrŒhman must be a well educated person of Veda and the knower of past, present and future.


       The Sukla Yajurveda includes only mantras; but the Kr·na Yajurveda includes both mantra and sacrificial acts. There are some sacrifices (yagas): Asvamedha (the horse);[14] Purusamedha[15] (human being as sacrifice); and Sarvamedha[16] (who become a forest dweller after offering everything to Brahmins) are considered to be the important sacrifices.


       During the BrŒhmana period an important place is given to sacrifices. Brahmin is the performer of the sacrifice. He became the most important person in the society. He superseded even the kings. Brahmin became the faithful advisor to the king. As the term purohita denotes the Brahmin is supposed to sit in front of the king. Some BrŒhmana texts described brŒhmanas as living gods (bhusura) on the earth. Thus the Brahmins should be respected by everyone for the service that they render to the human beings.


       The division of society into four caste groups (K§atriya, BrŒhmaöa, Vai§a, and êudra) took place during the BrŒhmana period. This division did not exist earlier. The Purusa Sèkta, a later addition to ôg-Veda, has the first reference to the division of Hindu society into the four classes. In the early period of Vedic literature there was no such class division. The original Aryans all belonged to one class, everyone being priest and soldier, trader, and tiller of the soil. When the Vedic religion developed into ceremonialism different families formed themselves into a class.



Lecture 6 (April 6, 2006)



Pre-Upanisad Period



1. Caste System


       As we mentioned above, the Purusa Sèkta of the ôg Veda refers to the division of Hindu society into the four classes: K§atriya, BrŒhmaöa, Vai§a, and êudra. Originally all Aryans belonged to one class, every one being priest and soldier, trader and tiller of the soil. Any person could offer sacrifices to gods without anybody’s mediation. Certain families distinguished for learning, wisdom, poetic and speculative gifts became representatives in worship under the title of Purohita (one set in front).


       In the Vedic period profession were not restricted to particular castes. One verse in the ôg Veda states the following: “I am a poet; my father is a doctor, my mother a grinder of corn.” When the Vedic religion developed into a regulated ceremonialism these families formed themselves into a class. Gradually the priest claimed for himself a divine dignity. Satapatha Brahmana states the following: “Verily there are two kinds of gods; for the gods themselves assuredly are gods, and then the priests who have studied and teach Vedic lore are the human gods.”[17]


       The kings who became the patrons of the learned Brahmins were the K§atriyas. The word K§atriya comes from Ksatra, “rule, dominion.” The rest were classed as the people (Vaisyas). The aboriginal tribes in India were regarded as Sudras by the Aryans. Later they developed the idea of divine origin of those castes: Brahmins from head of God; K§atriya from hand; Vai§a from leg; and êudra from foot.


       The Buddha rejected this theory of four castes: “On the basis of birth no one can be the lowest caste (na jaccŒ vasalo hoti); on the basis of birth no one can be the highest caste (na jaccŒ hoti brŒhmaöo); by action one becomes the lowest caste (kammanŒ vasalo hoti); by action one becomes the highest caste (kammanŒ hoti brŒhmaöo).



2. The Rebirth


       The concept of rebirth in the Vedic period is not very clear. The Vedic Aryans were convinced that death was not the end of things. As they thought the life comes after death as the day comes after night. Beings who once had been could never cease to be. They must exist somewhere, perhaps in the realm of the setting sun where Yama rules. Yama and Yami are the first mortals who entered the other world to lord over it. When a man dies he is supposed to reach Yam’s kingdom. Yama has found us a place, a home which is not to be taken from us.



3. Four Stages of Life


       The life according to the Taittariya Brahmana consists of four states as follows:


(1)   BrahmacŒrin (student period): he is expected to study one or more Vedas.

(2)   G¨hastha (the householder period): he has to fulfill the duties mentioned in the Scriptures; social and sacrificial duties.

(3)   Vānaprastha (hermit period): the devotee spends his time in fasting and penance.

(4)   Sannyāsin (the ascetic period): he has no fixed abode; he is without any passions or property; and he longs for union with gods.


       The four parts of the Veda (the hymns, the BrŒhmaöas, the Āranyakas, the Upani·ads) are associated with these four stages of the Aryan’s life. The question is how we find this practice of the four stages of life to compare with the Buddhist practice: is there age limit in entering to monastic life? (The age of kŒkuepaka is given in the sutta which means enough strength to chase the crow); there are customs of temporary monk-hood in Southeast Asian countries; the gender issues (This four stages are only for males), so on. Think of it.

4. The Development of Religious Thought



(1) Polytheism


The earliest form of religious thought consists in the worship of natural objects and powers. The early man personified the powers of nature and such powers became his gods. (personification and deification). Thus the plurality of gods and goddesses can be seen in the earliest stage of the Vedic literature. The religious tendency at a later stage of the Vedic literature was to identify one god with another or throw all the gods together. The numbers of these gods were indefinite. They were classified into three groups as follows:


(a)    Gods of the sky such as Mitra and Varuna.

(b)   Gods of the mid-air such as Indra and Marut.

(c)    Gods of the earth such as Agni and Homa.


All these gods have the coordinate power and no supreme god as such is recognized. All are equal and their activities are different. But some of them, like Indra and Varuna, are more imposing (more powerful) than others.


The gods are described as “guardians of ¨ta” (gopŒ ¨tasya) and practitioners of ¨ta (¨tayu).[18] Thus the Vedic gods are viewed as not only as the preservers of cosmic order but also as upholders of moral law. They are friendly to the good and inimical to the evil minded. The god Varuna (sky god) is responsible in maintaining the cosmic as well as the moral order. He becomes the god of righteousness; he forgives the evil acts but if they repeat, gives punishment. The god Varuna was soon superseded in Vedic mythology by Indra who is a god of battles, so became the hero god. Indra became the most powerful god; then Varuna became the secondary god.


In this early stage of Vedic religious practice there were no priest Brahmins who was involved in gods; everyone could do worship gods. 



(2) Monotheism


       The belief in a plurality of gods, which was a characteristic feature of early Vedic religion, began to lose its attraction gradually. As this belief in many gods began to fade away the man attempted to discover the one god that controls and rules over them all. Thus the mutual resemblance of one natural phenomenon with another (e.g. sun, fire, Mitra and dawn) and the overlapping of divinities can be seen n the Vedic mythology. The people began to give the supremacy to a particular deity while ignoring, for the time being, the other deities altogether.


This type of religious belief is named as “henotheism” by Max Müller. Henotheism is considered to be representing a definite stage of the advance of polytheistic to monotheistic belief. Even at this stage the most preferred god is not elevated to the rank of supreme. Attempts were made to discover not one god above other gods but rather the common power that works behind them. People interpret that one power differently. For example, the gods like Mitra and Varuna were addressed as if they were one. This notion is expressed in the following: “what is but one, wise people call by different names-as Agni, Yama, and Matarisvan. (ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti-agnim yamam matarisvanam ahuh). Another hymn of the ôg Veda states the following: “the worshipful divinity of the gods is one” (Mahat devanam asuratvam ekam).


The Vedic poets, in order to arrive at a unitary conception of divinity, used the term vi§ve devŒ (all or global gods) by taking a collective view of the gods. A more abstract way of arriving at unity was to select it and regard it as the supreme god. Thus the word “Vi§a karman,” which means “maker of everything,” originally appeared as a descriptive epithet of Indra and Surya, but later it ceased to be used as an adjective and became installed as god above all gods. The god Prajapati (“Father God”) became pre-eminent during this period. It personifies the creative power of the nature.[19] So we must be very careful to compare this monotheism with the present monotheism such as Christianity and Islam.



(3) Monism


       Monistic view can be seen mixed with monotheistic view and it is difficult to separate them. Yet we consider them as two tendencies. The monotheistic conception is bound to involve dualism.[20] It aims at only the unity of god-head-the reduction of many gods to one who is above and apart from the world which he makes and which he guides. It regards nature as set over against God and can therefore satisfy the longing for unity only in a qualified sense. There is a higher conception of unity, viz. monism, which traces the whole of existence to a single source.


Two distinct views can be seen in the monistic thought: one is the pantheistic view which identifies nature with God. Thus in ôg Veda the goddess Aditi (the Boundless) has been identified with all gods and all men, with the sky and air, in fact with whatever has been or whatever shall be. The central point of the pantheistic doctrine is to deny the difference between God and nature, which is the necessary implication of monotheism. God is conceived here not as transcending nature but as immanent in it; the world does not proceed from God, but is itself God. So it is non-dualism (advaita).


       The other view related to the monistic thought is the principle of causality. It not only traces the whole universe to a single source but also tackles the problem of what its nature may be. The origin of the universe, according to this interpretation, is not a creation by an external agency, but a spontaneous supra sensible First Cause. This conception is wholly impersonal and free from all mythological elements.


       This monism was gradually developed as Brahman-Atman theory of Unpani·ad: it took for long time; it was not a sudden happening.






Upanisad Period



       As we saw already in an earlier lecture, the term Upani·ad means “to sit near the teacher in order to receive the secrete doctrine from the teacher.” This indicates that the secret doctrine or knowledge should not be heard in public because the Upani·ad philosophy grew against Brahmins: it condemned the sacrifices or mantras; it might be arisen by K§atriya and Vai§a people who came to fade up with those sacrificial ceremonies. Upani·ad indicates several meanings as follows:


-Something which is received by the student from the teacher.

-Whatever teacher teaches students secretly.

-The ability of Upani·ad helps us to approach and realize the truth; and eradicates our wrong doings.

-The knowledge of the Brahman: according to Saµkara, the greatest commentator of Upani·ad, if one engages in studying Upani·ad seriously, he will be able to achieve the highest goal (salvation); Ananda stage (super-mundane happiness); he will destroy birth, decay and death; and eventually reaches Brahman (the highest God) stage.



Lecture 7 (May 4, 2006)



Etymology of the word Upanisad



       The term means sitting down near (upa-ni-sad) to the teacher in order to receive the instruction. This term gradually came to mean what receive from the teacher, a sort of secret doctrine (rahasyam). Sometimes it is made to mean what enables us to destroy error, and approach truth. Samkara, in his introduction to Taittariya Upanisad, says: “Knowledge of Brahman is called Upanisad because for those who devote themselves to it, it unloose the bonds of conception, birth, decay, etc.; because it destroys them altogether; because it leads the pupil very near to Brahman; because therein the highest God is seated.


       Upanisads are in the concluding portions of the Veda; they are known as Vedanta (the end of the Veda). Upanisads are considered to be the foundation on which most of the later philosophies and religions in India rest. The earliest Upanisads must be composed between the completion of the Vedic hymns and the rise of Buddhism in the 6th century B.C. The accepted dates for the early Upanisads are 1000 B.C. to 300 B.C.



Upanisad Teachings



       During the Upanisad period, the society, which had been engaged in performing rituals and sacrifices, began to realize the importance of the spiritual life. According to the teachings of Upanisad, the soul cannot obtain salvation by the performance of sacrifice; it can be obtained only by the truly religious life based on an insight into the heart of the universe. Perfection is inward and spiritual, not outward and mechanical. The aim of the Upanisad was not science or philosophy, but right living. They wished to liberate spirit from the trammels of the flesh, that it might enjoy communion with God.


       It is recognized that the Vedic knowledge is much inferior to the truth of divine insight, and will not liberate us. In the Chandogya Upanisad, Narada ôsi says: “I know the ôg Veda, Sir, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda; with all these I know only the Mantras and the sacred books. I don not know the self.” The Mundaka Upanisad says: “Two kinds of knowledge must be known; the higher and the lower. It is the knowledge that ôg Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda, ceremonial, and grammar give… but the higher knowledge is that by which the indestructible Brahman is apprehended.” The higher knowledge is the comprehension of Brahman. The most important thing is to know Brahman and Atman.



1. Brahman and Atman


       These terms are described as the ‘two pillars’ on which rests nearly the whole edifice of Indian philosophy. The origin of these two terms is somewhat obscure. The word ‘Brahman’ seems at first to mean ‘prayer’ derived from b¨h which means ‘to grow’ or ‘to burst forth.’ Brahman as prayer is what manifests itself in audible speech. It developed later, derived from this term, the philosophical significance which bears in the Upanisads, viz. the primary cause of the universe: what bursts forth spontaneously in the form of nature as a whole and not as mere speech only. Upanisads recognize only One Spirit: almighty, infinite, eternal, self-existent, incomprehensible, preserver and destroyer of the world; He is the light, lord, and life of the universe; is the one without a second, the sole object of worship and adoration. The half gods of the Veda die and the true God arrives.[21] Brhadaranyaka Upanisad states the following:


“How many gods are there really, O Yajnavalkya?” “One,” He said. “Now answer us a further question: Agni, Vayu, Aditya, Kala (time), Prana (breath), Anna (food), Brahma, Rudra, Visnu… Thus do some meditate on him, some on another. Say which of these is the best for us? And he said to them: “These are the chief manifestations of the highest, the immortal, the incorporeal Brahman… Brahman, indeed, is all this and a man may meditate on, worship and discard all those which are its manifestations.”[22]


       The term ‘Atman’ originally meant ‘breath’ (jiva) and then came to be applied to whatever constitutes the essential part of anything, more particularly of man. i.e. his self or soul. Each of these terms has its own significance: the distinctive meaning of ‘Brahman’ is the ultimate source of the outer world while that of ‘Atman’ is the inner self of man. Atman comes from Brahman and goes back to Brahman.


       Brahman and Atman are considered to be two interrelated states. Atman, which as the soul or self is the inmost truth of man, became as the cosmic soul or self the inmost truth of the world. When the universe came once to be conceived in this manner, its self became the only self, the other selves being regarded as in some way identical with it. The universe is considered as the macrocosm and the individual self as the microcosm.


According to the Aitareya Upanisad, which is a development of the Purusa Sukta in the ôg Veda, the parts of the universe are described as parts of the Purusa, a giant man. Thus Agni (fire) was born from the mouth of the Purusa, and Vayu from his nose, the four directions from his ear, trees and plants from his skin and the moon from his mind. The physical features of this Purusa are represented in the external world. These features are also associated with the individual self. Thus Agni transforms into the speech and enters into his mouth, the air transforms into breath and enters into his nose, the sun goes to the eye as vision, and four directions go to the heart as the mind. These parts, as Brhadaranyaka Upanisad states, go back to the universal self after the death of a person.


Thus considering the similarity between the parts of the universe and body parts of a man, the individual self (Atman) and the universal self (Brahman) are considered as constituting one and the same thing. The expressions such as tat tvam asi or aham Brahma asmi describes the relationship between the Brahman and Atman: the individual self (tvam) is the Brahman (tat); I (aham) become the Brahman. Thus the universe is treated as the Brahman and Brahman as the Atman.


The seers of Upanisads try to lead us to the central reality which is infinite existence (sat), absolute truth (cit), and pure delight (ananda). The prayer of every human heart is thus:


 “Lead me from the unreal to the real; lead me from darkness to light; lead me from death to immortality” (Asato ma sad gamaya, tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, mrtyo ma amrtam gamaya, Brhadaranyaka Upanisad).



Lecture 8 (May 17, 2006)



2. Atman and Brahman


       Chandogya Upanisad highlights very important details related to the Atman and Brahman in the form of dialogue that took place between Uddalaka and his son Svetaketu who had been to a teacher and returned home after completing his study. The father noticed a lack of humility in Svetaketu and feared that his son might not have learned from his teacher the true meaning of life. Then the father began to instruct his son.


       Uddalaka began to discuss first the ultimate entity which is to be regarded as mental or spiritual; it is called sat (being); the entire universe is a manifestation of it. In the beginning sat alone without a second. Then it thought, “May I be many.” Its diversification took place first into three elements: tejas (fire), ap (water), and p¨thivī (earth); then into various others until organic bodies, including those of human beings. This indicates that the spiritual entity postulated in the beginning is all-comprehensive and that whatever is, has sprung from it. In conclusion, Uddalaka says, “Svetaketu, you are Brahman! (tat tvam asi svetaketo)” Thus the original Sat is identified with the self of Svetaketu; the universal self is immanent in the individual self.[23]


       From the Upanisadic view, there is, in the highest condition, the disintegration of individuality, giving up of selfish isolation; but it is not a mere nothing or death. The Mundaka Upanisad says, “As the flowing rivers disappear in the sea, losing their name and form, thus a wise man, freed from name and form, goes to the divine person who is beyond all.” Thus the Upanisads do not recognize the ultimate reality of the narrow individual self. The Mundaka Upanisad also indicates that the Atman is spread everywhere. The ôsi YŒj–avalkya explains it to Maitreyi as follows:


“As a lump of salt which is thrown into the water dissolves and cannot be gathered up again but wherever water is drawn it is salty, so truly is it with this great being, the endless, the unlimited, the fullness of knowledge, from these beings it came into view and with them it vanishes. There is no consciousness after death.”


This notion is comprehensible if the duality of existence of the universal self and the individual self is accepted.


The soul (jīva) is often described as puru·a, which is explained as puri-§aya (what lies in the citadel of body). It means that the existence of the physical body, with its diverse but co-operating parts, implies the existence of something whose end it serves. According to the Upanisad teaching the jīva is not in reality the limited entity it generally takes itself to be.[24] This problem is dealt with in the doctrine of ko§as (sheaths) in the Taittirīya Upanisad thus:


(1) annamaya ko§a: is the outermost of the ko§as, being the body or material covering of the jīva and standing for the physical side of individual existence.


(2) prŒöamaya ko§a: represents the vital and organic side of the individual existence; so it is the inner layer of the body.


(3) manomaya ko§a:  is the experience of the conscious level of life.


(4) vij–Œnamaya ko§a: is the self-conscious level of life.


(5) Œnandamaya ko§a: is the self-transcendent state which is represented as higher than the experience of the conscious (manomaya) and the self-conscious (vij–Œnamaya) levels of life because the conflicts and confusions typical of them are overcome in it. This self-transcendent state indicates that its essential mark is peace. Yet it is not mok·a, the final liberation. It stands midway between common experience and mok·a.[25]


The word jīva is derived from the root jīv which means ‘to continue breathing.’ The name gives prominence to one of the two aspects of life’s activity: one is the biological or unconscious acts like breathing which goes on even when the mind is quiescent as in deep sleep; the other is psychological or conscious aspect of the activity such as experience (bhoktŒ) and agent (kartŒ). The principle of unconscious activity is termed prŒöa; and that of conscious activity, manas. Every soul is conditioned by these two principles throughout its empirical existence. What should be added to these two is the material body which alone is replaced at every birth. These tree together (body, prŒöa, and manas) form a sort of empirical home for the soul.


The conscious side of the soul’s activity is carried on by manas with the aid of the ten indriyas: (1) five of knowledge: cak·us, §rotra, tvak, ghrŒöa, and rasanŒ, which are respectively the organs of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and flavour; and (2) five of actions: vŒk, pŒöi, pŒda, pŒyu, and upastha, which are respectively the organs of speech, holding, moving, excretion, and generation. The usual Upanisadic expression for the things of experience is nŒma-rèpa, which signifies that whatever is thought of or spoken is the particular. The mind and the sense organs function only within the realm of names and forms. That is, the empirical knowledge is inevitably of the finite. But this does not mean that Brahman, the infinite, is unknowable. The very purpose of the Upanisad is to make it known. So Brahman also is knowable; only the knowledge of Brahman is higher type than empirical knowledge.


The Mundaka Upanisad classifies all knowledge into two: the higher (parŒ-vidyŒ) and the lower (aparŒ-vidyŒ); the knowledge of Brahman and the empirical knowledge. The higher knowledge may not enlighten us about the principle of the details concerning particular things, but it gives us an insight into the principle of their being, as the knowledge of a lump of clay for example may be said to do in regard to everything made of clay. In this sense it may be described as complete knowledge, different from the lower knowledge which even at its best is fragmentary.[26]


According to the Mandukya Upanisad, the soul has four conditions: waking (jagara), dreaming (svapna), sleeping (susupti), and turiya state.


(1)   Waking state: in this condition, the self is conscious of the common world of external objects. It enjoys the gross things. Here the dependence on the body is predominant.


(2)   Dreaming state: the self enjoys subtle things in this condition. It fashions for itself a new world of forms with the materials of its waking experience. The spirit is said to roam freely unfettered by the bonds of the body. It is the intermediate state between waking and deep sleep. Its physical condition is that the sense organs should become wholly quiescent; then the senses are stated to unite with the conscious activity (manas). The essential difference between waking and dreams is that while the manas in the former receives from outside impressions which it builds up into ideas, in the latter it fashions a world of forms unaided from outside but by itself. The dreaming like waking fall under psychology proper, for in it the mind functions; but the other two (sleeping and turiya) are supra-mental and are considered with a view to discover the real nature of the soul.



(3)   Sound Sleep state: in this condition we have neither dreams nor desires. The soul is said to become temporarily one with Brahman and enjoy bliss. In deep sleep we are lifted above all desires and freed from the vexation of spirit. We don’t know what happened to our mind in this stage. From the Upanisadic view, it is higher and transcendental stage.


(4)   Turiya state: it is a precedent stage when only three other stages were recognized. This state is not within the experience of ordinary man. It lies outside the strict limits of empirical investigation. This state should be tested by a person that is gifted with yogic power. The attainment of this state is regarded as the culmination of spiritual training.



Lecture 9 (June 1, 2006)



3. Definition of Self


       Chandogya Upanisad narrates a dialogue between the teacher Prajapati and the pupil Indra. It indicates the progressive development in the definition of self through four stages as follows:


(1) The bodily self: this corresponds to the waking state of self. Mind gets impressions from outside world.

(2) The empirical self: this corresponds to the dreaming state of self.

(3) The transcendental self: this corresponds to the sleeping state of self.

(4) Absolute self: this corresponds to the turiya state and Œnandamaya experience.



4. The Main Objects of Upanisadic Discipline (Path)


       The first, Upanisads attempt to cultivate the detachment (vairŒgya). The main object of Upanisads is to remove ahamkŒra (selfishness) which is the basis of all evil; and vairŒgya is the name given to that attitude towards the world which results from the successful eradication of the narrow selfish impulses. To achieve this goal one needs training through three stages (Œ§ramas) thus:


       (1) brahma-carya stage: practicing celibacy as a religious student.

       (2) gŒrhasthya stage: the householder life.

       (3) vŒnaprastha stage: go to the forest to become the anchorite.


       As the very word Œ§rama means (toil, hard working), during those stages the selfishness is slowly but steadily rooted out. This training leads to sanyŒsa[27] which is regarded as a transcending of the triple mode of Œ§rama life and it is regarded as a consequence of Brahma knowledge. The stage of sanyŒsa appears to be a late development. A several training of body and soul is prescribed for the ascetic who alone can live such an ideal life. His life must be governed by the strictest purity and poverty.[28]


       The second, acquisition of knowledge (j–Œna) is another aspect related to the Upanisadic discipline. The removal of evil being due to a misconception of the nature of reality can be done only through the right knowledge. The cultivation of detachment is necessary for the acquisition of such knowledge. Detachment is a precondition of the right knowledge. The B¨hadŒraöyaka Upanisad says thus: “Having become calm, subdued, quiet, patiently enduring, and collected, one should see the self in the self.”


       This second stage includes a threefold training as follows: §ravaöa (hearing), manana (thinking), and nididhyŒsana (meditation). The first stands for the study of the Upanisads under a proper guru (teacher). It also means that the influence of an ideal is never so great on us as when we are brought into personal contact with one who is a living embodiment of that ideal. êravaöa is not enough; so it is supplemented by manana, that is, a continuous reflection upon what has thus been learnt with a view to get an intellectual conviction regarding it. This training is to be further supplemented by nididhyŒsana which assists directly in the realization within oneself of the unity underlying the multiplicity of the universe.[29] Thus ‘spiritual perception’ (dar§ana) can be achieved in respect of the Œtman or Brahman. The results through the successful training of this course will lead to mok·a, the final goal.


       NididhyŒsana is the highest form of meditation and is possible only after considerable practice in concentration of thought. In this regard the Upanisads prescribe some meditative exercises which are known as upŒsana. Thus only one external object may be chosen and it may be thought of as identical with the contemplative person’s own self.[30] It provides scope to the cultivation of sympathetic imagination, the power to place oneself in the position of another. Accordingly it serves as a more direct aid to Brahma-realization; Brahman is to be identified with the contemplative person’s self. The higher conceptions such as PrŒöa which marks the actual stage in the evolution of the absolute self can also be selected as the real object of contemplation. Among the symbols used for Brahman may be mentioned the famous Om, the mystic syllable, which finds a very important place in the Upanisads. Whatever forms of meditation may take, they prepare the disciple for the final mode of contemplation as Aham Brahma asmi.



       The majority, according to Upanisads, are born again after death. The constant stream of births and deaths until mok·a is attained is known as saµsŒra (transmigration). The law which governs the kind of birth which such a jīva gets every time it dies, is known as the law of karma. It signifies that nothing can happen without a sufficient cause in the moral as in the physical world, that is, each life with all its pains and pleasures is the necessary result of the actions of past lives and becomes in its turn the cause, through its own activities, of future births. It traces all suffering eventually to ourselves and thus removes bitterness against God or our neighbour. The B¨hadŒraöyaka Upanisad says, “A man becomes good by good deeds and bad by bad deeds.” So long as we perform selfish work, we are subject to the law of bondage. When we perform disinterested work, we reach freedom.



5. Morality


       According to the Upanisads, the inner purity is more important than the outer conformity. Upanisads say: do not steal; do not murder; do not covet; do not hate; do not yield to anger, malice, and greed. The Upanisads ask us to renounce selfish endeavours, but not all interests. Detachment from self and attachment to God are what the Upanisads demand. The ideal sage has desires, though they are not self desires.



6. The life after death


       The thinkers of Upanisads do not support the materialistic view that the soul is annihilated at death. They have strong conviction of the continuity of life, and maintain that there is something which survives bodily death. The Upanisads mention the two paths by which a departed soul proceeds to enjoy the fruits of its karma done in its life time on earth. One of them is called devayŒna, or the arcirmarga, the path of light. The other is pitryŒna or the dhumamarga. The former leads to the plane of Brahma or satyaloka through Agni etc. From this there is no return. The pitryŒna takes to candraloka, the region of the moon through the different spheres of smoke, night etc. One who goes to devayŒna does not come back to this world, but one who goes to the pitryŒna, after enjoying the fruits of his good acts, comes back to the earth. The devayŒna and pitryŒna correspond to the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness (aj–ana), which involves us in saµsara.

















Lecture 10-11 (June 8, 2006)



Post Upanisadic Period


(Early Post-Vedic Period)



       We have examined three stages of development of the Indian religious thoughts: Vedic period, Brahmana period, and Upanisadic period; each stage reflects polytheism, monotheism, and monism. In a broad point of view, all three stages can be regarded as Vedic thoughts which were culminated in the Upanisadic teachings. Therefore, the present topic, post Upanisadic thoughts, can be set as the early post-Vedic period.



1. Common Characteristic


       The common characteristic features associated with religious practices during this period are as follows:



(1) Diversity of doctrines


Even the Upanisadic doctrine itself was a deviation from the earlier teaching of BrŒhmaöas. In addition to diverse Hindu thoughts, two other prominent religious schools (Jainism and Buddhism) emerged.



(2) Non-confinement of religion to any specific group


Religion became for all without any distinction of caste or sex. It is not only Buddhism and Jainism that manifest this liberal spirit; Hinduism also did the same, unlike Upanisadic period, in which the sacred teachings were limited only for some chosen students. Now, according to MahŒbhŒrata, even the Hinduism is designed chiefly for the instruction of the sacred texts, to the people who have no direct access to them, such as women, §udras, and degenerate Brahmins.



(3) The realistic thought


The thought of this period is predominantly realistic. This realistic nature began to awaken the people at the time.



(4) The new languages


In addition to the Sanskrit literature, a vast literature was introduced in Prakrit languages such as Magadhi and Ardha Magadhi.



(5) The development of orthodox thought


The Upanisads in this period, though setting forth the doctrine of the Absolute, exhibit a development particularly on theistic and realistic lines. Upanisads began to treat contemplation (yoga) and renunciation (sanyŒsa) as means of salvation or glorifying êiva or Vi·nu conceived as God supreme. This development of thoughts can be found in a species of literature consisting of concise aphorisms, known as Kalpa Sètras; it has triple division into êrouta Sètras, G¨hya Sètras and Dharma Sètras. The êrouta Sètras profess to systematize the sacrificial lore of the BrŒhmaöas, but doubtless include much later material. The G¨hya Sètras portray the ideal life from the standpoint of the family and describe ceremonies such as marriage and upanayanam, the initiation by the teacher of the pupil into the study of the Veda. Dharma Sètras, dealing as they do with customary law and morals, present the norm of life from the standpoint of the state or society. All these aphoristic codes, like the Mantras and BrŒhmaöas, are considered chiefly with priestly life. Besides the Upani·ads and the Kalpa Sètras, the MahŒbhŒrata is considered to be a great store house of information of the post-Vedic mythology and doctrine during this period. It express thus: “Whatever is worthy to be known in matters relating to the welfare of man is here; and what is not here is nowhere is to be found.”



2. The Four Currents of Thought


The development of the following four currents of thought can be found during the post-Vedic period as follows:


(1) Ritualism


       Teaching of the Kalpa Sètras can be included in this regard. Its aim is to elaborate and systematize the ritualistic teaching of the Veda. Scholars began to lay down strict rules for the study and preservation of the Veda (svŒddhyŒya) as a sacrifice and as the highest form of self-discipline (tapas). They further regulate institution of the four Œ§ramas, particularly that of the religious student by whom the Veda is to be studied.


       In the later Upani·ads there is a tendency to revert to sacrificial worship as taught in the BrŒhmaöas. In the Maitri Upani·ad, this tendency reaches its climax, for there we find adherence to Vedic ceremonial represented as indispensable to the knowledge of the self.[31]


       The attitude of the MahŒbhŒrata towards ritual is quite indefinite. Sometimes it glorifies the sacrifice; but sometimes it is antagonistic to ritualism, using the style of Yaj–a NindŒ (reviling of sacrifice).[32]


(2) Absolutism


         In the later period of Upani·ad, people began to look upon the physical world as an actual emanation from Brahman, and to dwell upon the distinction between the soul and Brahman as well as that between one soul and another. In Maitri Upani·ad, the empirical self (jiva) is termed bhètŒtman, the self as enmeshed in the body; it is described as another (anya) and different (apara) from Brahman.  Thus a new thought within the Upani·ads which emphasizes the difference between the individual self and Brahman emerged even though monistic view was still prevailed in the teachings of the later Upani·ads.[33]



(3) Theism: Personal God


       The transformation of the impersonal Brahman or the absolute into a personal God, BrahmŒ, can be found during this period. The BrahmŒ occupied the highest rank already during the Buddha’s time, called the supreme God (paramo-deva). He controls all the affairs of this world, being its creator, preserver and destroyer.[34]


The shifting character of Vedic monotheism can be seen here; BrahmŒ’s place seems to have been taken by êiva at the later stage. Worship of the gods Vi·öu and êiva became prominent.[35] The desire to manifest himself for saving mankind is indeed regarded as a mark of Vi·nu, showing his special characteristic of benevolence. The term AvatŒr, indicating the incarnations of Vi·öu, literally means the descent, i.e. coming down of God to earth. The thought contained in this concept is that of deity that intervenes when man, forgetting the divine within him, shows a tendency by lapse into the state of mere natural being: “When righteousness wanes and righteousness begins to flourish, then I become incarnate.” The supremacy of Vi·öu-NŒrŒyaöa conception appears often in the MahŒbhŒrata. In Bhagavad GītŒ it is mentioned about the reincarnation (avatŒr) of K¨·hna (Vi·öu-NŒrŒyaöa) thus: “I will come down from time to time (sambhavŒmi yuge yuge) in order to protect good people (parithrŒöŒya sŒdhènŒµ) and destroy (punish) wrong doers (vinŒ§Œya ca du·k¨tŒn); to establish righteousness (dharma sansthŒpanŒrthŒya).”



(4) Vedic Free Thinking


       This is an antagonism to the Vedas, to their sacrificial teaching and the customs and institution directly connected with it. Buddhistic and Jaina works refer to numerous philosophical schools other than Vedic. The well known Vedic exegete YŒska (500 B.C.), in his Nirukta, mentions that Kautsa criticized the Veda as either meaningless or self-contradictory, and controverts at length his anti Vedic opinions. The early Buddhistic literature indicates that some of the Brahmins and êramaöas denied the surviving soul and refused to believe in transmigration of the soul.


       êvetŒ§vatara Upani·ad and the later work mention the development of two more views regarding the nature of world: one is Accidentalism (Yad¨cchŒ-vŒda/ Animitta-vŒda); the other is Naturalism (SvabhŒva-vŒda). PŒli literature also includes some of the heretical views existed during the time of the Buddha.[36]


The Accidentalism (Yad¨cchŒ-vŒda) maintains that the entire world is a chaos and ascribes whatever order is seen in it to mere chance. It denies causation altogether and is similar to the teaching of CŒrvŒka which describes the events of life to mere accident.


The Naturalism (SvabhŒva-vŒda), on the other hand, recognizes that ‘things are as their nature makes them.’ It acknowledges its universality, but only traces all changes to the thing itself to which they belong. According to the Naturalism (SvabhŒva-vŒda), it is not a lawless world in which we live; only there is no external principle governing it. It is self-determined, not undetermined. So this doctrine, unlike the other, recognizes governing all phenomena; but it is a necessity that is inherent in the very nature of thing, not imposed upon it by any external agency.


The both doctrines are at one in rejecting the idea that nature reveals a divine power working behind it or indeed any transcendental being which controls it or is implicated in it. Nor does either school seek for its views any supernatural sanction.  



3. Various Modes of Discipline


       Various modes of discipline commended for reaching the goal of life is taught. This disciplinary teaching is three-fold: karma, yoga, and bhakti. These are associated with the first three of the four schools of thought briefly sketched above.



(1) Karma


       This term includes sacrificial rites and acts allied to them as first taught in the BrŒhmaöas and later systematized in the Kalpa sètras. It also includes certain duties and practices which set forth in the Veda and became sanctified by tradition. But it must not be thought that ordinary virtues, social and self-regarding, were ignored. Ethical purity was a necessary condition for entering upon the path of karma. Karma can be three types thus:


(a) KŒmya (permitted or optional) karma: which aim at specific results such as the attainment of heaven. It is not compulsory; if one wants to go to heaven, do it. (b) Prati·iddha (prohibited) karma: indulgence in which will lead to sin and to its unwelcome consequences. (c) Nitya (obligatory or unconditional) karma: which comprehend the duties appropriate to the four varöas (classes of society) and to the four Œ§ramas.[37]


(2) Yoga


       This term is cognate with English ‘yoke’ and means ‘harnessing.’ It is a process of self-conquest and resorted to in ancient India for the acquisition of supernatural or occult powers. But here we are concerned with the yogic practice as the means of securing release. In this sense it is practically the same as upŒsana taught in the Upani·ads. It is predominantly associated with Absolutism. Yogic meditation is to follow intellectual conviction regarding the unity to be realized. Yoga is thus really a joint aid with j–Œna (right knowledge).



(3) Bhakti


       This is ‘loving devotion’ and is the disciplinary means especially appropriate to theism, with belief in a single personal God. Generally speaking, it represents a social attitude while yoga does the reverse. The Bhaktas meet together and they find spiritual exaltation in the company of others who are similarly devoted. The yogins, on the other hand, are apt to seek God or the Absolute singly. Their aim is to be alone with the Alone. Bhakti is predominantly emotional while yoga is predominantly intellectual. For Bhakti adds an element of love to devotion. Vi·öu-K¨·öa and ç§vara-êiva are predominantly associated with this idea of Bhakti.



(4) Goal of those disciplines


       What is the nature of the condition that is to be reached by such disciplines? Some say that the goal of life is the attainment of heaven after death by means of earning religious merit (dharma) in this life. Some others say that the attainment of mok·a is the highest ideal, conceive of it in more than one way: it may be union with the Ultimate as in Absolutism; or it is reaching the presence of God as in Theism; or it is merely releasing from the trammels of saµsara as in some heretical schools. In this last sense, it is more often styled nirvŒöa, literally ‘blowing out,’ which brings out clearly its negative character. It is conceived, however, the ideal of jīvan-mukti continues. The MahŒbhŒrata proclaims an attitude of passionless serenity attainable in this life as itself mok·a.[38]  




















Lecture 12-13 (June 15, 2006)



Religious Thought in Buddhistic and Pre-Buddhistic Era



       The following religious groups are found in the Buddhist literature:


1. Samaöa-BrŒhmaöa


       The term Samaöa-BrŒhmaöa (ascetics and Brahmins) denotes leaders in religious life. These two groups are usually rivals.[39] Brahmins alone were learned in the Three Vedas, knew the mystic Mantras, and could conduct the all important sacrifices. Brahmins were characterized in the suttas as traditionalists (anu§avika) who teach their doctrines on the basis of oral tradition. Not all Brahmins exercised their priestly function; some had settled down to agriculture or even trade.[40]


Whenever the Buddha or his disciples were confronted with the Brahmins who claim their superiority, they argued vigorously against them, maintaining that all such claims were groundless. Purification, they contended, is the result of conduct, not of birth; thus it is accessible to those of all castes. The Buddha even stripped the term ‘brŒhmaöa’ of its hereditary accretions and hearkening back to its original connotation of holy man; he defined the true Brahmin as the Arahant.[41]


The secret teachings of Upani·ads were grafted on to orthodox Brahmanism and later this doctrine developed to form the core of the Vedanta system. Thus the impersonal Brahman is the supreme reality, and the goal of the teaching is the realization of that the individual human self or soul (atman) is ultimately identical with the universal self which is another term for Brahman.


Samaöas (êramaöa in Sanskrit) are known as recluses. A samaöa might occasionally be a recluse, a hermit shut away from the world in a rocky cell, but the more usual type was a wandered who had abandoned the world to lead a more or less ascetic life. He (or rarely she) was in fact a drop-out from society, though differing from our modern drop-outs in at least one important respect: samaöas as a group received no less respect from all classes even from kings than did the Brahmins. Their teachings were many and varied: some wise and some exceedingly foolish; some loftily spiritual and some crudely materialistic. They were completely free to teach whatever they pleased, and were received with honor wherever they went. Several different groups of these people can be distinguished. There were the self mortifiers on the one hand, and the wanderers on the other, whose austerity probably consisted in their detachment from family ties and their observance of chastity.


Samaöas are mentioned in the Buddhist literature in connection with debates (vŒdasīla). Those who were opposed to the Buddhist teaching were known as a––atitthiya. The a––atitthiya who habitually debate are classified as the Ājīvakas and the Nigaö has; the debates of the Brahmins were also known. The classification of the debaters as mentioned in the SuttanipŒta Sutta would be as follows:


VŒdasīla are divided into two main categories as samaöa (a––atitthiya) and BrŒhmaöas. Samaöas are divided into Ājīvaka and Nigaö ha.



2. The ParibbŒjakŒs


       The paribbŒjakŒs were also well known for debates. As the UdŒna PŒli indicates these ascetics as nŒnŒtitthiya samaöabrŒhmaöa paribbŒjakŒ who are said to be debating and making verbal thrusts as each other (vivŒdŒpannŒ a––ama––aµ vitudantŒ viharanti). They were philosophers who propounded many different theories about the world and nature, and delighted in disputation.


The PŒli canon introduces us to six well known teachers of the time, all of whom were older than Gotama. They are Pèraöa Kassapa, an amoralist (akiriyavŒda); Makkhali GosŒla, a determinist (ahetuka-vŒda); Ajita Kesakambala, a materialist; Pakudha KaccŒyana, a categorialist; Nigaö ha NŒtaputta, a relativist and eclectic; and Sa–jaya Bella  hiputta, an agnostic, sceptic or positivist. The SŒma––aphala Sutta of the Dīgha-nikŒya gives a detailed account of these six teachers thus:



(1) Pèraöa Kassapa


       He taught a doctrine of inaction (akiriyavŒda) and denied validity of moral distinctions. He says, “By the doer or instigator of a thing, by one who cuts or causes to be cut, by one who burns or causes to be burnt, by one who causes grief and weariness, by one who agitates or causes agitation, by one who causes life to be taken or that which is not given to be taken, by one who commits burglary, carries off booty, commits robbery, lies in ambush, commits adultery, and tells lies, no evil is done.” These words are in PŒli as follows:


karoto kŒrayato chindato chedŒpayato pacato pŒcayato socayato socŒpayato kilamayato kilamŒpayato phandayato phandŒpayato pŒnaµ atimŒpatayato adinnam Œdiyato sandhim chindato nillopaµ harato ekŒgŒrikaµ karoto paripanthe ti  hato paradŒraµ gacchato musŒ bhaöato karoto na karīyati pŒpaµ.



(2) Makkhali GosŒla


       He was the leader of the sect known as Ājīvakas. He taught a doctrine of fatalism that denied causality (ahetuka-vŒda) and claimed that the entire cosmic process is rigidly controlled by a principle called fate or destiny (niyati); beings have no volitional control over the actions but move helplessly caught in the grip of fate. He says, “There is no cause or condition for the defilement of beings; they are defiled without cause or condition. There is no cause or condition for the purification of beings; they are purified without cause or condition. There is no self-power or other-power, there is no power in humans, no strength or force, no vigour exertion.” These words are in PŒli as follows:


nattthi hetu natthi paccayo sattŒnaµ samkilesŒya. ahetu appaccayŒ sattŒ samkilissanti. natthi hetu natthi paccayo sattŒnaµ visuddhiyŒ. ahetu appaccayŒ sattŒ visujjhanti. natthi attakŒre natthi parakŒre natthi purisakŒre natthi balaµ natthi viriyaµ natthi purisathŒmo natthi purisaparakkamo.



(3) Ajita Kesakambala


       He was a moral nihilist (natthikavŒda/ ucchedavŒda) who propounded a materialistic philosophy that rejected the existence of an afterlife and kammic retribution. He says, “There is nothing given, bestowed, offered in sacrifice; there is no fruit or result of good or bad deeds; there is not this world or the next; there is no mother or father; there are no spontaneously arisen beings; there are in the world no ascetics or Brahmins who have attained, who have perfectly practiced, who proclaim this world and the next, having realized them by their own super-knowledge.” These words are in PŒli as follows:


natthi yitthaµ natthi hutaµ. natthi suka adukka Œnaµ kammŒnaµ phalaµ vipŒko. natthi ayaµ loko. natthi paraloko. natthi mŒtŒ. natthi pitŒ. natthi sattŒ opapŒtikŒ. natthi loke samaöabrŒhmaöŒ sammaggatŒ sammŒpa ipannŒ ye ima–ca lokaµ para–ca lokaµ sayaµ abhi––Œ sacchikatvŒ pavedentīti.



(4) Pakudha KaccŒyana


       He advocated an atomism on the basis of which he repudiated the basic tenets of morality (a––ena a––aµ). He says, “These seven things are not made, uncreated, unproductive, barren, false, stable as a column. They do not shake, do not change, obstruct one another; nor are they able to cause one another pleasure, pain, or both. What are the seven? They are the earth-body, the water-body, the fire-body, the air-body, pleasure, pain, and the life principle. These seven are not made… Thus there is neither slain nor slayer; neither hearer nor proclaimer; neither knower nor causer of knowing. And whoever cuts off man’s head with a sharp sword does not deprive anyone of life; he just inserts the blade in the intervening space between these seven bodies.” These words are in PŒli as follows:


sattime kŒyŒ aka Œ aka avidhŒ animmitŒ. animmŒtŒ va–jhŒ kè a  hŒ esika  hŒyi  hitŒ. te ne i–janti na vipariöamanti. na a––ama––am vyŒbŒdhenti nŒlam a––ama––assa sukhŒya vŒ dukkhŒya vŒ sukhadukkhŒya vŒ. katame satta? pa havikŒyo ŒpokŒyo tejokŒyo vŒyokŒyo sukhe dukkhe jīvasattame. ime satta kŒyŒ akatŒ… tattha natthi hantŒ vŒ ghŒtetŒ vŒ sotŒ vŒ sŒvetŒ vŒ vi––ŒtŒ vŒ vi––ŒpetŒ vŒ. yo pi tiöhena satthena sīsaµ chindati, na koci ki–ci jīvitŒ voropeti. sattannaµ yeva kŒyŒnam antarena satthavivaraµ anupatatīti.



(5) Sa–jaya Bella  hiputta


       He is a sceptic, refused to take a stand on the crucial moral and philosophical issues of the day, probably claiming that such knowledge was beyond our capacity for verification. The skepticism of Sa–jaya is described as ‘eel-wriggling’(amaravikkhepa) because of its evasiveness and classified among the types of holy life that are without consolation. He says, “If you ask me ‘Is there another world?’ if I thought so, I would say so. But I don’t think so. I don’t say it is so, and I don’t say otherwise. I don’t say it is not, and I don’t not to say it is not. If you ask ‘Isn’t there another world?... Both?...Neither?’... ‘Is there fruit and result of good and bad deeds? ‘Isn’t there…?...Both?...Neither?’... ‘Does the TathŒgata exist after death? Does he not?... Both?... Neither?’… I don’t say it is not.” These words in PŒli as follows:


Atthi paro loko? ti iti ce taµ pucchasi, ‘atthi paro loko’ti iti ce me assa, ‘atthi paro loko’ti iti te naµ byŒkareyyaµ. evam pi me no. tathŒ ti pi me no. a––athŒ ti pi me no. no ti pi me no. no no ti pi me no. ‘natthi paro loko’ti. -pe- ‘atthi ca natthi ca paro loko? nevatthi na natthi paro loko -pe- atthi suka adukka Œnaµ kammŒnaµ phalaµ vipŒko? -pe- natthi suka adukka Œnaµ kammŒnaµ phalaµ vipŒko? -pe- atthi ca natthi ca suka adukka Œnaµ kammŒnaµ phalaµ vipŒko? -pe- nevatthi na natthi suka adukka Œnaµ kammŒnam phalam vipŒko -pe-



(6) Nigaö ha NŒtaputta


       He is identified with MahŒvira, the historical progenitor of Jainism. He taught that there exists a plurality of monadic souls entrapped in matter by the bonds of past kamma and that the soul is to be liberated by exhausting its kammic bonds through the practice of severe self-mortification. He says, “Nigaötha is bound by fourfold restraint. What four? He is curbed by all curbs, enclosed by all curbs, cleared by all curbs, and claimed by all curbs. And as far as a Nigaö ha is bound by this fourfold restraint, thus the Nigaö ha is called self-perfected, self-controlled, self-established.” These words are in PŒli as follows:


nigaö ho cŒtuyŒmasaµvarasaµvuto hoti. katha– ca nigaö ho cŒtuyŒmasaµvara saµvuto hoti? nigaö ho sabbavŒrīvŒrito ca hoti, sabbavŒrīyuto ca, sabbavŒrī dhuto ca sabbavŒrīphu  ho ca. nigaö ho gatatto ca yatatto ca  hitattocŒti.



Lecture 14 (June 22, 2006)



3. Ja ilas


       Another group of ascetics mentioned in the Buddhist literature are Ja ilas. Probably they wore turbans and thus came to be known by this term. The Buddha met three brother Ja ilas known as Uruvela Kassapa, Nadī Kassapa, and GayŒ Kassapa. They became followers of the Buddha.


       All the above religious groups other than Hindus can be included under the term samaöa,[42] a heterodox. The followers of Hinduism are known as brŒhmaöas, an orthodox.


4. Jainism


       The Jains were considered as one of the Vedic free thinking religious groups lived in India. Jainism is an unorthodox religion.[43] It is much older than Buddhism. The great reformer of Jainism is VardhamŒna, called MahŒvīra, the great spiritual hero. But he was only the last in a series of prophets. Tradition reckons twenty three prophets as having preceded him. Of these twenty three prophets, PŒr§vanŒtha, the next previous to VardhamŒna, is believed to have lived in the 8th century B.C.


VardhamŒna is considered to be a contemporary of the Buddha. His father SiddhŒrtha was the chief of a K§atriya clan; and his mother was Tri§alŒ, sister of the king of Videha. He married Ya§odŒ and lived in the house of his parents till they died. He entered upon the spiritual career afterwards when he was twenty eight years old. For about a dozen years he led an austere life practicing penance and at the end of that period attained perfect knowledge; became a kevalin.


Some of the special characteristic features of Jainism are as follows:



(1) Jīva: the conscious/spirit


       The notion of Jīva, the conscious/spirit, in general corresponds to Œtman or puru·a of the Upani·ad teaching; but jīva means breath.[44] The number of jīvas is infinite, all being alike and eternal. In their empirical form they are classified in various ways, such as those that have one sense, two senses and so forth; this classification implies different levels of development in the souls. Man’s personality is dual, consisting of a spiritual element as well as a material element. The object of life is so subdue the material element as to shake off its malignant influence and thereby enable the jīva to reveal all its inherent excellences in their fullness.


       Knowledge is not something that characterizes the jīva; it constitutes its very essence. The jīva, therefore, can know everything unaided directly and exactly as it is; only there should be no impediment on its way. External conditions such as the organ of sight and the presence of light are useful only indirectly, and j–Œna results automatically when the obstacles are removed through their aid. That the knowledge which a jīva actually has is fragmentary is due to the obscuration caused by karma which interferes with its power of perception.


       Karma adheres to the soul as a result of activity. Any and every activity induces karma of some kind, but deeds of a cruel and selfish nature induce more karma; and more durable karma than others. The karma already required leads to acquisition of further karma, and thus the cycle of transmigration continues indefinitely. Transmigration can only be escaped by dispelling the karma already adhering to the soul and by ensuring that no more is acquired.


The annihilation (nirjara) of karma comes about through penance; the prevention of the influx (samvara Œ§rva) and fixation (bandha) of karma in the soul is ensured by carefully disciplined conduct, as a result of which it does not enter in dangerous quantities and is dispersed immediately. The culmination of enlightenment is reached when the obstacles are broken down in their entirety. Then the individual jīva, while continuing as such, becomes omniscient and knows all objects vividly and precisely as they are. That is called kevala-j–Œna, absolute comprehension without media or doubt; it is what MahŒvira is believed to have attained at the end of the long period of his penance. It is immediate knowledge and is described as kevala (pure) since it arises of itself without the help of any external aid like the senses, etc.



(2) Ajīva: the unconscious/non-spirit


       Ajīva is divided into five groups: ether (ŒkŒ§a), the means or condition of movement (dharma), means or condition of rest (adharma), time (kŒla), and matter (pudgala). The universe functions through the interaction of living souls (jīva) and five categories of non-living entities. These five categories lack life and consciousness. Of these, time (kŒla) is infinite. But there are cycles in it; each cycle has two eras of equal duration described as avasarpiöī (period of decline) and utsarpiöī (period of improvement). In the decline period the virtue gradually decreases and in the improvement period the reverse takes place. At present, the world is rapidly declining.


Space/ether (ŒkŒ§a) which is also infinite is conceived as consisting of two parts: one (lokŒkŒ§a) where movement is possible and the other (alokŒkŒ§a) where it is not.[45] Matter (pudgala) possesses color, flavour, odour, and touch; sound being looked upon not as a quality but as a mode of it (pudgala pariöŒma).



(3) Practical teaching: feature of discipline


       Jainism insists not on enlightenment alone or on conduct alone, but on both. To these it adds right faith (samyagdar§ana), right knowledge (samyagj–Œna), and right conduct (samyak-cŒritra) as the three gems (tri-ratna) of life.


       There are five vows (vrata) to be practiced by followers of Jainism. They are in the case of the ascetic: (1) not to injure any living being (ahiµsŒ); (2) not to utter falsehood (satya); (3) not to steal (asteya); (4) to lead a celibate life (brahmacariya); (5) to renounce the world (aparigraha). In the case of the layman they are the same except that the last two are replaced by the vows respectively of chastity and contentment (or strict limitation of one’s wants). Of those various virtues, ahiµsŒ plays an important role among Jains.


       According to Jainism, the aim of life is to get oneself disentangled from karma. Like other Indian religious thoughts, Jainism also believes in the soul’s transmigration; but its conception of karma, the governing principle of transmigration, is unlike that of any other. It is conceived here as being material permeating the jīvas through and through, and weighing them down to the mundane level.


       Jainism has two sects: êvetŒmbara (wearing white clothes) and Digambara (without wearing any clothe). Jain monks do not shave their hair; they pull out hair by the roots. Meat-eating is forbidden to monk and layman alike. Even insect life is carefully protected. Jains strain their drinking-water to save the lives of living beings. Jaina monks carry feather dusters to brush ants and other insects from their path and save them from being trampled underfoot, and they wear veils over their mouths to prevent the minute living things in the air from being inhaled or killed.



Lecture 15 (June 29, 2006)



Religious Thoughts in SŒma––aphala Sutta (DN)



       The SŒma––aphala Sutta of the Dīgha NikŒya gives a clear picture about the religious thinking during the time of the Buddha. The king AjŒtasattu having met with six famous religious leaders who lived in his kingdom of Magadha approached the Buddha finally and continued asking the same question that he had put to other six teachers. The question was related to the fruits of the life of a samaöa. AjŒtasattu asked the Buddha whether he can point out the reward which is visible here and now as the fruits of the homeless life (di  heva dhamme sandi  hikaµ sŒma––aphalaµ pa––Œpetuµ). The Buddha pointed out a number of factors related to the fruits of the homeless life. These fruits can be enumerated as follows:



1. Freedom/ Indebtedness: fruits of a recluse life in general


      The recluse who went forth from the household life into homelessness will be living restrained in body, speech, and thought… in solitude (kŒyena saµvuto vihareyya, vŒcŒya saµvuto vihareyya, manasŒ saµvuto vihareyya, ghŒsacchŒdanaparamatŒya santu  ho abhirato paviveke). Such recluses will be respected; the people pay homage to them; rise and invite them and press them to accept robes, food, lodging, medicines for sickness and requisites, and make arrangements for their proper protection.



2. Practicing Dhamma


Practicing Dhamma within the dispensation of TathŒgata is explained under several stages as follows:


(1) Faith, renunciation, and practice Vinaya rules


The first, “having heard this Dhamma, he gains faith in the TathŒgata.” SaddhŒ is a strong faith rooted in understanding; without saddhŒ one cannot proceed to practice Dhamma; it inspires the mind with confidence (pasŒda); unshakeable faith (aveccappasŒda) is attained by stream-entry (sotŒpatti) who eliminated the fetter of skeptical doubts.

The second, renunciation: “having gained this faith, he reflects, the household life is close and dusty, the homeless life is fee as air. It is not easy, living the household life, to live the fully-perfected holy life, purified and polished like a conch-shell. Suppose I were to shave off my hair and beard, don yellow robes and go forth from the household life into homelessness!” And after some time, he abandons his property, small or great, leaves his circle of relatives, small or great, shaves off his hair and beard, dons yellow robes and goes forth into the homeless life.


The third, practice of Vinaya rules, right behavior and morality: “having gone forth, he dwells restrained by the restraint of the rules, persisting in right behavior, seeing danger in the slightest faults, observing the commitments he has taken on regarding body, deed and word, devoted to the skilled and purified life, perfected in morality, with the sense-doors guarded, skilled in mindful awareness and content.



(2) Guarding of the sense-doors


       “Here a monk, on seeing a visible object with the eye, does not grasp at its major signs or secondary characteristics. Because greed and sorrow, evil unskilled states, would overwhelm him if he dwelt leaving this eye-faculty unguarded, so he practices guarding it, he protects the eye-faculty, develops restraint of the eye-faculty. On hearing a sound with the ear, … on smelling an odour with the nose, … on tasting a flavour with the tongue, … on feeling an object with the body, … on thinking a thought with the mind, he does not grasp at its major signs or secondary characteristics… he develops restraint of the mind-faculty.”



(3) Accomplishment in mindfulness and clear awareness


       “Here a monk acts with clear awareness in going forth and back, in looking ahead or behind him, in bending and stretching, in wearing his outer and inner robe and carrying his bowl, in eating, drinking, chewing and swallowing, in evacuating and urinating, in walking, standing, sitting, lying down, in waking, in speaking and in keeping silent he acts with clear awareness.”



(4) Contentedness


       “Here a monk is satisfied with a robe to protect his body, with alms to satisfy his stomach, and having accepted sufficient, he goes on his way. Just as a bird with wings flies hither and thither, burdened by nothing but its wings, so he is satisfied… Then, having eaten after his return from the alms-round, he sits down cross-legged, holding his body erect, and concentrates on keeping mindfulness established before him.”



(5) Freeing the mind from worldly desires


       “Abandoning worldly desires, he dwells with a mind freed from worldly desires, and his mind is purified of them.” Abandoning ill-will and hatred by compassionate love, sloth and torpor by perceiving light, worry and flurry by inwardly calmed mind, and doubt by doubtlessness, he dwells with a mind freed from worldly desires.

(6) Deliverance


       “And he with mind concentrated, purified and cleansed, unblemished, freed from impurities, malleable, workable, established and having gained imperturbability, applies and directs his mind to the knowledge of the destruction of the corruption.” He knows as it really is, “This is suffering,” “This is the origin of suffering,” “This is the cessation of suffering,” and “This is the path leading to the cessation of suffering.” And through his knowing and seeing his mind is delivered from the corruption of sense-desire… and the knowledge arises in him, “This is deliverance!” and he knows, “Birth is finished, the holy life has been led, done is what had to be done, there is nothing further here.”



Lecture 16 (July 13, 2006)



Religious Views depicted in the BrahmajŒla Sutta (DN)



       In the Supreme Net (BrahmajŒla) Sutta, the monks came to know the arguments between a wanderer named Suppiya and his pupil about the merits of the Buddha, the doctrine (Dhamma) and the Order (Saºgha). The TathŒgata informs them not to be affected by either praise or blame of the teaching, and declares that the ‘worldling’ will praise him for superficial reasons and not for the essence of his teaching. The Buddha discloses sixty two types of wrong view. Further the Buddha in this context tells the monks that worldling will praise him for elementary, inferior matters of moral practice. These elementary matters of moral practice are discussed as follows: Culla sīla, Majjhima sīla, and MahŒ sīla. 



1. Culla Sīla (Short Section on Morality)


       (1) Abandoning the taking of life (pŒnŒtipŒtŒ veramaöī).

       (2) Abandoning the taking of what is not given (adinnŒdŒnŒ veramaöī).

       (3) Abandoning the un-chastity (abrahmacariyŒ veramaöī).

       (4) Abandoning the false speech (musŒvŒdŒ veramaöī).

       (5) Abandoning the malicious speech (pisunŒvŒcŒ veramaöī).

       (6) Abandoning the harsh speech (pharusŒvŒcŒ veramaöī).

       (7) Abandoning the idle chatter (samphappalŒpŒ veramaöī).


       The behavior of the ascetic Gotama is as follows:


       (1) Refrains from damaging seeds and crops.

       (2) Eats once a day and not at night; refrains from eating an improper time.

       (3) Avoids watching dancing, singing, music, and shows.

       (4) Abstains from using garlands, perfumes, cosmetics, ornaments, and adornments.

       (5) Avoids using high or wide beds.

       (6) Avoids accepting gold and silver.

       (7) Avoids accepting raw grain or raw flesh.

            (8) Does not accept women and young girls, male or female slaves, sheep and goats,

cocks and pigs, elephants, cattle, horses and mares, fields and plots.

            (9) Refrains from running errands, from buying and selling, from cheating with false weights and measures, from bribery and corruption, deception and insincerity, from wounding, killing, imprisoning, highway robbery, and taking food by force.



2. Majjhima Sīla (Middle Section on Morality)


In this section, the Buddha compares the difference in behavior between the ascetic Gotama and some other ascetics and Brahmins with regard to the foregoing nine factors. Some of the additional factors are thus: refraining of the ascetic Gotama from unedifying conversation,[46] disputation, running errands and messages,[47] and addiction to deception. Thus this sutta describes the superiority of the ascetic Gotama.



3. MahŒ Sīla (Large Section on Morality)


       In this section, the Buddha narrates the life style of some ascetics and Brahmins and indicates his refraining from such wrong activities (micchŒjiva: wrong way of life). These wrong activities are as follows:


       (1) The ascetic Gotama refrains from making his living by such base arts, such wrong means of livelihood as palmistry, divining by signs, portents, dreams, body-marks, mouse-gnawing, fire-oblations, oblations from a ladle, of husks, rice-powder, rice-grains, ghee or oil, from the mouth or of blood, reading the finger-tips, house and garden lore, skill in charms, ghost lore, earth-house lore, snake lore, poison-lore, bird-lore, crow-lore, foretelling a person’s life span, charms against arrows, knowledge of animals’ cries.


       (2) The ascetic Gotama refrains from making his living by such base arts as judging the marks of gems, sticks, clothes, swords, spears, arrows, weapons, women, men, boys, girls, male and female slaves, elephants, horses, buffaloes, bulls, cows, goats, rams, cocks, quail, iguanas, bamboo-rats, tortoises, deer.


       (3) The ascetic Gotama refrains from making his living by such base arts as predicting there will be victory for one side and defeat for the other.


       (4) The ascetic Gotama refrains from making his living by such base arts as predicting the eclipse of the moon, the sun, a star.


       (5) The ascetic Gotama refrains from making his living by such base arts as predicting good or bad rainfall; good or bad harvest; security, danger; disease, health; or accounting, computing, calculating, poetic composition, philosophizing.


       (6) The ascetic Gotama refrains from making his living by such base arts as arranging the giving and taking in marriage, engagements and divorces; [declaring the time for] saving and spending, bringing good or bad luck, procuring abortions, using spells to bind the tongue, binding the jaw, making the hands jerk, causing deafness, getting answers with a mirror, a girl-medium, a deva; worshipping the sun or Great BrahmŒ, breathing fire, invoking the goddess of luck.


       (7) The ascetic Gotama refrains from making his living by such base arts, such wrong means of livelihood as appeasing the devas and redeeming vows to them, making earth-house spells, causing virility or impotence, preparing and consecrating building-sites, giving ritual rinsings and bathings, making sacrifices, giving emetics, purges, expectorants, and phlegmagogues, giving ear-, eye-, nose-medicine, ointments and counter-ointments, eye-surgery, surgery, pediatry, using balms to counter the side-effects of previous remedies.



Lecture 17 (August 10, 2006)



Religious Views depicted in the BrahmajŒla Sutta (the Supreme Net)



       The Buddha trapped all sixty two wrong views in this sutta. In the beginning the Buddha told monks not to be affected by either praise or blame of the teaching, and declared that the ‘worldlings’ (puthujjana) would praise him for superficial reasons and not for the essentials of his teaching.


       The BrahmajŒla Sutta can be considered as a prolegomenon to the entire Buddha Dhamma. It is the entry at the gateway to the Buddha SŒsana, which guards the boarder separating the Buddha’s understanding of reality from all other attempts at a reflective interpretation of humankind’s existential situation. The Buddha’s survey of views can be immensely helpful for the students of the Dhamma, although the practice and the fulfillment of the Buddhist path is fully accessible to those unacquainted with the survey as well as to those who, while acquainted with it, do not regard it as a matter of vital concern.[48]


       The Buddha’s survey of views is fundamental to the promulgation of the Dhamma in both its theoretical and practical dimension. With respect to the theoretical dimension, the survey of views marks the dividing line between the Buddhist understanding of existence and the standpoints of other systems of philosophical thought and religious belief.


The classification of views presented in the BrahmajŒla Sutta employs a temporal factor as the primary variable in terms of which speculative views are to be categorized as follows:


1. Pubbantakappa (PubbantŒnudi  hi): 18 views (speculation) about the past.

2. Aparantakappa (AparantŒnudi  hi): 44 views (speculations) about the future.


Basically the Eternalism (Sassata-vŒda) and the Annihilationism (Uccheda-vŒda) are the two main categories under which all other 62 views belong. The first 18 views belong to the Eternity view, while the second 44 views belong to the Annihilation view. The Buddha did not follow any of them; instead, he talked of the Middle Path (MajjhimŒ Pa ipadŒ).


Of the eighteen views concerning the past, four are forms of pure eternalism (sassata-vŒda), which hold the self (atta) and the world to be existent throughout the beginningless past; four are forms of partial-eternalism or semi-eternalism (ekacca-sassata-vŒda), which assert some entities to be eternally existent through the past while other entities have a temporal origin; four views are concerned with the spatial dimensions of the universal, whether the world is finite or infinite (antŒnanta-vŒda); the next four are collected under the appellation ‘endless equivocation’ or ‘eel-wriggling’ (amarŒvikkhepa-vŒda); and the last among the views referring to the past are two doctrines of ‘fortuitous origination’ (adhicca-samuppanna-vŒda), which held that the self and the world arise fortuitously without any cause or reason. Those different religious views in the Sutta are thus:


There are, monks, some ascetics and Brahmins who are speculators about the past, having fixed views about the past, and who put forward various speculative theories about the past, in eighteen different ways (pubbantakappika; pubbantŒnudi  hika). On what basis, on what grounds do they do so?



1. Eternity of the Self and the World (sassata-vŒda: sassataµ attanaµ ca lokaµ ca)


       According to this view, the beings live forever in that state. The Buddha explains this view as follows:


       Here, monks, a certain ascetic or Brahmin has by means of effort, exertion, application, earnestness and right attention attained to such a state of mental concentration that he thereby recalls past existence-one birth, two births, three, four, five, ten births, a hundred, thousand, a hundred thousand births, several hundred, several thousand, several hundred thousand births. “There my name was so-and-so, my clan was so-and-so, my caste was so-and-so, my food was such-and-such. I experienced such-and-such pleasant and painful conditions. I lived for so long. Having passed away from there, I arose there. There my name was so-and-so… And having passed away from there, I arose here.” Thus he remembers various past lives, their conditions and details. And he says: “The self and the world are eternal, barren like a mountain peak, set firmly as a post. These beings rush round, circulate, pass away and re-arise, but this remains eternally… I know the self and the world are eternal.” [Wrong view 1].



2. Eternity of the Self and the World (2)


       Here, monks, a certain ascetic or Brahmin has by means of effort, exertion… attained to such a state of mental concentration that he thereby recalls one period of contraction (saµvata) and expansion (viva  a), two such periods, three, four, five, ten periods of contraction and expansion… “There my name was so-and-so…” [Wrong view 2].


3. Eternity of the Self and the World (3)


       Here, monks, a certain ascetic or Brahmin has by means of effort… attained to such a state of mental concentration that he recalls ten, twenty, thirty, forty periods of contraction and expansion. “There my name was so-and-so…” [Wrong view 3].



4. Eternity of the Self and the World (4)


       Here a certain ascetic or Brahmin is a logician, a reasoner. Hammering it out by reason, following his own line of thought, he argues: “The self and the world are eternal, barren like a mountain-peak, set firmly as a post. These beings rush round, circulate, pass away and re-arise, but this remains for ever…” [Wrong view 4].



5. Partly Eternalists and Partly Non-Eternalists (1)


       There was a class of religious teachers, who were semi-eternalists, who hold that the world and the soul were partly eternal and partly not. According to this view, after a long period of time of contraction, when the world began to expand, an empty palace of BrahmŒ appears.[49] And then one being, from exhaustion of his life-span or of his merits, falls from the Ābhassara world (devas of streaming radiance) and arises in the empty BrahmŒ-palace. And there he dwells, mind-made, feeding on delight, self-luminous, moving through the air, glorious; and he stays like that for a very long time.


       Then this being feeling lonely thinks, “Oh, if only some other beings would come here!” And other beings, from exhaustion of their life-span or of their merits, fall from the Ābhassara world and arise in the BrahmŒ-palace as companions for this being. And they dwell, mind-made, feeding on delight… and they stay like that for a very long time…


       And this being that arose first is longer-lived, more beautiful and more powerful than they are. After some time, some being falls from that realm and arise in this world. Having arisen in this world, he goes forth from the household life into homelessness. Having gone forth, he by means of effort, exertion, application, earnestness and right attention to such degree of mental concentration that he thereby recalls his last existence, but recalls none before that. And he thinks: “That BrahmŒ… he made us, and he is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, the same for ever and ever. But we who were created by that BrahmŒ, we are impermanent, unstable, short-lived, fated to fall away, and we have come to this world.” [Wrong view 5].



6. Partly Eternalists and Partly Non-Eternalists (2)


       According to this view, it is believed that there is existence of an ethereal group of devas (khiapadosikŒ gods). Now it is said that those who over-indulge in sporting in the heaven lose their memory, fall from the state and are reborn on earth. Such a person leaves the household life, practices meditation and attains a jhŒnic state, whereby he sees his own past life and realizes that in that world there are beings who do not over-indulge, and who are eternal. He thinks: “Those reverend devasare permanent, stable… but we, who are corrupted by pleasure… have fallen from that state, we are impermanent… have come to this world.” [Wrong view 6].



7. Partly Eternalists and Partly Non-Eternalists (3)


       This is similar to the above theory except for the following difference. Instead of not over-indulge devas here we find devas who are not corrupted in mind do not spend an excessive amount of time regarding each other with envy. He thinks: “Those reverend devas who are not corrupted in mind… are permanent… but we, who are corrupted in mind… are impermanent… have come to this world.” [Wrong view 7].



8. Partly Eternalists and Partly Non-Eternalists (4)


       The details are similar to the wrong view of No. 4, that is, the case of a logician, a reasoner. This view adds the following: “Whatever is called eye or ear or nose or tongue or body, that is impermanent, unstable, non-eternal, liable to change. But what is called thought or mind or consciousness, that is self, that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, the same for ever and ever.” [Wrong view 8].



9. Perception of the World as Finite (1)


       A certain ascetic or Brahmin, after the attainment to such a state of concentration, thinks as follows: “This world is finite and bounded by a circle, because I have… attained to such a state of concentration that I dwell perceiving the world as finite. Therefore I know that this world is finite and bounded by a circle.” [Wrong view 9].



10. Perception of the World as Infinite (2)


       A certain ascetic or Brahmin, after the attainment to such a state of concentration, thinks that the world is infinite and unbounded. [Wrong view 10].



11. Perception of the World as both Finite and Infinite (3)


       A certain ascetic or Brahmin has attained to such a state of consciousness that he dwells perceiving the world as finite up-and-down, and infinite across. Thus he says that the world is both finite and infinite. [Wrong view 11].



12. Perception of the World as neither Finite nor Infinite (4)


       A certain ascetic or Brahmin is a logician, a reasoner. Hammering it out by reason, he argues, “This world is neither finite nor infinite.” [Wrong view 12].











Lecture 18 (September 28, 2006)



Enumeration of 62 Views

Depicted in the BrahmajŒla Sutta



       These views can be divided into two main categories: (1) the 18 views related to the speculation about the past; (2) the 44 views related to the speculation about the future.



1. Speculation about the Past (18 views)


(1) Eternity of the Self and the World (4 views): the self and the world to be existent throughout a beginningless past.


(2) Partly Eternalists and Partly Non-Eternalists (4 views): some entities to be eternally existent through the past while other entities have a temporal origin.


(3) Finitude and Infinitude of the World (4 views).


(4) Eel-Wrigglers resort to Evasive Statements (4 views).


(5) Chance-Originists (2 views).



2. Speculation about the Future (44 views)


(1) A Doctrine of Conscious Post-Mortem Survival (16 views): self to survive death in full possession of perception; when person dies, self (soul) which has consciousness and form exists and transmigrates one from the other; it is called sa––i.


(2) A Doctrine of Unconscious Post-Mortem Survival (8 views): self to survive death in a mode of devoid of perception; there are souls which have no consciousness; it is called asa––i.


(3) A Doctrine of Neither Conscious-Nor-Unconscious Post-Mortem Survival (8 views): survival of an immortal self which neither percipient not non-percipient after death.


(4) A Doctrine of Annihilation; Destruction and Non-Existence of Beings (7 views): self is annihilated at death and does not survive in any form; it is called ucchedavŒda which believes that nothing remains after death.


(5) A Doctrine of NibbŒna Here and Now (5 views): identification of some aspect of our temporal experience with the supreme goal of religious life; the identification of the four jhŒnas with supreme nibbŒna.



These 62 views can be divided into two broad categories: doctrine of eternity (sassatavŒda) and the doctrine of annihilation (ucchedavŒda). Seven views are related to the doctrine of annihilation; perhaps the two views (chance-originations) includes under the speculation about the past are partly related to the doctrine of annihilation too; other views are related to the doctrine of eternity. The views related to the doctrine of annihilation can be grouped under the craving for non-existence (vibhavataöhŒ) and the doctrine of eternity under the craving for eternity (bhavataöhŒ).


According to the details of the BrahmajŒla Sutta, all the above mentioned views are conditioned by contact (phassa). The followers of these views experience the six classes of sense impression, namely visual, hearing, smelling, tasting, bodily impression, and mental impression (rèpa, sadda, gandha, rasa, pho  habba, and dhamma) through the six sense bases, namely eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness (cakkhu, sota, ghŒöa, jivhŒ, kŒya, and mano). They experience these feelings with repeated contact through the six sense bases: feeling conditions craving; craving conditions clinging; clinging conditions becoming; becoming conditions birth; birth conditions ageing and death, sorrow, lamentation, sadness, and distress. As a concluding remark, the Buddha said,


“A monk understands as they really are the arising and passing away of the six bases of contact, their attraction and peril, and the deliverance from them, he knows that which goes beyond all these views.”


The Buddha pointed out that all these views are created by ascetics who are ignorant; because of their ignorance and craving, they get such wrong views. Craving has been divided into three types: craving for sense pleasure (kŒmataöhŒ); craving for existence (bhavataöhŒ); and craving for non-existence (vibhavataöhŒ). Different types of craving will be instrumental for the formulation of different philosophical views. The most powerful craving in man is the craving for existence (bhavataöhŒ). He tries to protect his life from all threats to his survival. But finally man has to die. In order to maintain his continued existence the man will fabricate views proclaiming the immortality of the imagined core of his being, his self or soul. Thus the craving for existence lies at the bottom of doctrine affirming the eternal existence of the self in future life.


In the SŒma––aphala Sutta (DN), the Buddha rejected speculative views forwarded by six famous teachers who were his contemporaries. Of these the following three are considered to be the Evil-Views with fixed destiny (niyata-micchŒdi  hi).


(1) The fatalistic ‘View of the Uncausedness’ of existence (ahetukavŒda) was taught by Makkhali-GosŒla who denied every cause for the corruptness and purity of beings, and asserted that everything is minutely predestined by fate.


(2) The ‘View of the Inefficacy of Action’ (akiriyavŒda) was taught by Pèraöa-Kassapa who denied every karmic effect of good and bad actions. “To him, who kills, steals, robes etc., nothing bad will happen; for generosity, self-restraint and truthfulness etc., no reward is to be expected.”


(3) Nihilism (natthikavŒda) was taught by Ajita-Kesakambala who asserted that any belief in good action and its reward is a mere delusion, that after death no further life would follow, that man at death would become dissolved into the elements, etc.

The Buddha preached the ‘Middle Doctrine’ (majjhimŒ pa ipadŒ). He explained the importance of ‘Dependent Arising’ (paticcasamuppŒda). Accordingly there is no any enduring self or ego entity; continuation of an individual existence from life to life is a process of becoming; becoming is maintained by the regenerative factors of ignorance and craving for existence. Thus the individual beings assume specific forms determined by their kamma or volitional actions.



Lecture 19 (October 5, 2006)



Special Characteristic Features of Buddhism



Doctrine of Impersonality (Anatta)



       The Buddha, in explaining his doctrine, sometimes paid attention to the community accepted truth (sammuti sacca) and sometimes to the philosophical mode of expression which is in accordance with undeluded into reality (paramattha sacca). A real ego-entity or any abiding substance cannot be found from the point of view of philosophical mode of expression. The Buddha used the conventional language in explaining community accepted truth. The term ‘self’ (atta) was used in both ways. The following examples indicate how the Buddha used conventional language to explain ‘self.’ They are found in the Atta Vagga of the Dhammapada.


(1) If one holds oneself dear, one should protect oneself well (attŒnaµ ce piyaµ ja––Œ rakkheyya naµ surakkhitaµ).

(2) Let one first establish oneself in what is proper, and then instruct others (attŒnameva pa hamaµ patirèpe nevesaya).

(3) Oneself, indeed, is one’s savior (attŒ hi attano nattho).

(4) Easy to do things that are hard and not beneficial to oneself (sukarŒni asŒdhèni attano ahitŒni ca).

(5) For the sake of other’s welfare, however great, let not one neglect one’s own welfare (atta datha mabhi––Œya sadattha pasuto siyŒ).


       The term ‘self’ was used in the above contexts in accordance with the common parlance; but in the Anatta-lakkhaöa Sutta (VN) it is used in referring to the philosophical mode of expression. In this sutta, the Buddha denied the eternity view regarding the five aggregates. Here the Buddha said,


“The body (rèpa) is soulless (anatta). If there were in this a soul then this body would not be subject to suffering. Let this body be thus, let this body be not thus, such possibilities would also exist. But in as much as this body is soulless, it is subject to suffering, and no possibility exists for (ordering): let this be so, let this be not so.”


Similarly feelings (vedanŒ), perceptions (sa––Œ), mental states (saºkhŒra), and consciousness (vi––Œöa) are soulless (anatta). They are impermanent (anicca) and painful (dukkha). One may attempt to consider the five aggregates as his/her due to craving (taöhŒ), conceit (mŒna), and wrong view (micchŒ di  hi). Yet with the right view (sammŒ di  hi) one cannot consider five aggregates as his/her soul. Thus, ignorance (avijjŒ) is the main reason for person to think that five aggregates are belonging to his own self.


The Doctrine of Anatta is the third factor of the three characteristics of existence (tilakkhaöa). Accordingly five aggregates or any other entity cannot be considered as an ego. Anatta theory is one of the fundamental teachings of the Buddha and the structure of Buddhism depends on this. It is very different from other existed teachings during the Buddha’s time. Therefore, the concept of the anatta should be studied in paying attention to the different religious teachings existed during the time of the Buddha. The teachings in the SŒma––aphala Sutta (MN) and the BrahmajŒla Sutta (DN) are important in this regard. The teachings of six religious teachers who were contemporaries of the Buddha are explained in the SŒma––aphala Sutta (see the lecture note 18). The BrahmajŒla Sutta explains two main religious views: eternalism and annihilationism. The concept of permanent ego is depicted in the eternity view (sassatavŒda) and the concept of destruction of ego is explained in the annihilation view (ucchedavŒda). Buddhism goes against these two views. It teaches the doctrine of not-self. The Anatta Doctrine is one of the special characteristic that other religious teachers never mentioned.


According to the eternity view, there is existence of an everlasting and indestructible entity in the world. This supreme truth remains not only within the universe but also within every living being. The individual self will be united with the universal self or the Brahman. Brahman is the ultimate truth. This view is quite contrary to the Buddhism. From the Buddhistic point of view, the belief in eternal self is due to the ignorance (avidyŒ, avijjŒ). According to the Buddhist teaching, a person who attempts to understand impermanence of the world through his insight knowledge (vipassanŒ ––Œöa) will become free from the cycle of rebirth. This understanding will help us to abandon the personality belief (sakkŒya d  hi). A person will not achieve his salvation as long as he clings to the five groups of existence (upŒdŒna) through craving (taöhŒ), conceit (mŒna) and wrong view (micchŒ di  hi). The BrahmajŒla Sutta explains how the Upanisad sages achieved absorptions (dhyŒna) through the mind concentration. They were not able to go beyond absorptions and hence they were unable to reach salvation through the development of wisdom (pa––Œ).


Many people who visited the Buddha wanted to know about the concept of ego. Some of them were eager to know the future existence of ego after the death of a person. The Buddha kept silence and did not give any direct answer to such questions. The reason was the non-existence of an everlasting ego. The Buddha adhered to the dependent origination in explaining the real nature of living beings.


The path of emancipation was found by the Buddha himself without receiving instructions from anybody. The Buddha, in his first sermon said the following: “Thus, O Bhikkhus, with respect to things unheard before, there arose in me the eye, the knowledge, the wisdom, the insight, and the light.” When the Buddha was questioned by Upaka, the wondering ascetic about his teachers, the Enlightened One said, “Wholly absorbed am I in the destruction of craving. Having comprehended all by myself whom shall I call my teacher? No teacher have I. An equal to me there is not. In the world including gods there is no rival to me.”


       The speciality of Buddhism can be seen in the SaºgŒrava Sutta (MN). This Sutta narrates how the prince SiddhŒrtha became an ascetic and struggled to find the path of purification. Accordingly, SiddhŒrtha spent sometime with ĀŒrakŒlŒma and reached the sphere of nothingness (Œki–ca––Œyatana). Then under UddakarŒma-putta he reached the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception (n’eva sa––Œ nŒsa––Œyatana). Then the ascetic SiddhŒrtha Gotama began to practice self-mortification without taking any food. Gradually he decided to take little food and practice meditation. Thus with the achievement of the fourth absorption he began to remember the previous lives. The light came to him through the destruction of ignorance. The suffering and the path leading to the cessation of suffering became very clear to him. Thus the mind became free from the sensual pleasure, desire for existence and the desire for wrong views and ignorance. Finally he destructed the cycle of rebirth and reached nibbŒna.



Lecture 19 (October 5, 2006)


The Four Noble Truths



       Dhamma is the term given to the teachings of the Buddha. It includes both the truth transmitted by the teaching and the conceptual verbal medium by which the truth is expressed. Dhamma is not a body of immutable dogmas or a system of speculative thought. It can be compared to raft for crossing over from the ‘near shore’ of ignorance, craving and suffering to the ‘far shore’ of transcendental peace and freedom. Dhamma consists at in its core in the Four Noble Truths.


       (1) The Noble Truth of Suffering (dukkha).

       (2) The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering (dukkha samudaya).

       (3) The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering (dukkha nirodha).

(4) The Noble Truth of the Way leading to the Cessation of Suffering (dukkhanirodhagŒminī pa ipadŒ).


       Dukkha includes pain, suffering, and unsatisfactoriness of everything conditioned. Unsatisfactoriness of the conditioned is due to its impermanence, its vulnerability to pain, and its inability to provide complete and lasting satisfaction. The notion of impermanence (anicca) that marks everything conditioned leads directly to the recognition of the universality of suffering (dukkha). The Buddha says, “In short, the five aggregates affected by clinging (pa–cupŒdŒnakkhandhŒ) are suffering.” The five aggregates include material form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. The material form (rèpa) includes the physical body with its sense faculties as well as external material objects. The feeling (vedanŒ) is the affective element in experience, either pleasant or painful, or neutral. The perception (sa––Œ) is the factor for noting the qualities of things and also accounts for recognition and memory. The mental formation (saºkhŒra) is an umbrella term that includes all volitional, emotive, and intellective aspects of mental life. The consciousness (vi––Œöa) is the basic awareness of an object indispensable to all cognitions.


       All beings with ignorance and craving wander on in the cycle of repeated existence, saµsara, in which each turn brings them the suffering of new birth, ageing, illness, and death. All states of existence within saµsara, being necessarily transitory and subject to change, are incapable of providing lasting security. Life in any world is unstable; it is swept away; it has no shelter and protector; nothing of its own.


       Impermanence (anicca) and suffering (dukkha) are tied up with non-self (anatta) and those three together are called the three marks of characteristics (tilakkhaöa). The notion of self has only a conventional validity; it does not signify any ultimate immutable entity subsisting at the core of our being. The bodily and mental factors are transitory phenomena, constantly arising and passing away, processes creating the appearance of selfhood through their causal continuity and interdependent functioning. Nor does the Buddha posit a self outside and beyond the five aggregates.


       Under the cause of suffering (dukkha samudaya), the Buddha identifies craving (taöhŒ) in its three aspects: craving for sensual pleasure, craving for being (continued existence), and craving for non-being (personal annihilation). The third truth states the converse of the second truth, that with the elimination of craving the suffering that originates from it will cease without remainder (dukkha nirodha). The middle two truths disclose the origin and cessation of bondage in saµsara. Dependent origination (paticcasamuppŒda) is the doctrine on which this expanded version of the two truths is set forth.


       According to the interpretation of the dependent origination, the series of twelve factors extends over three lives and divides into causal and resultant phases. The first two of these twelve factors (ignorance and karma-formations) pertain to the past; the middle eight (consciousness, corporeality and mentality, six bases, impression/contact, feeling, craving, clinging, process of becoming) to the present; and last two (rebirth, old age and death) to the future.


Of those factors, karma-formations (saºkhŒra) and the process of becoming (bhava) are regarded as karma which is the cause of rebirth; ignorance (avijjŒ), craving (taöhŒ), and clinging (upŒdŒna) are regarded as defilements (kilesa); relinking consciousness (vi––Œöa), corporeality and mentality (nŒma-rèpa), six bases (salŒyatana), contact (phassa), feeling (vedanŒ), birth (jŒti), decay and death (jarŒ-marana) are regarded as effects (vipŒka). 


Thus ignorance, karma-formations, craving, clinging, and the process of becoming, which are the five causes of the past, condition the present five results, namely, consciousness, corporeality and mentality, six bases, contact, and feeling. Similarly craving, clinging, process of becoming, ignorance, and mental formations of the present condition the above five effects of the future. The following diagram shows the relationship between three successive lives:


Past:   (1) Ignorance (avijjŒ)                         Karma Process

(2) Karma-formation (saºkhŒra)                    5 causes: 1,2,8,9,10.


Present: (3) Consciousness (vi––Œöa)                  Rebirth Process

(4) Corporeality and Mentality (nŒma-rèpa) 5 results: 3-7.

(5) Six bases (salŒyatana)                       

(6) Contact (phassa)                               

(7) Feeling (vedanŒ)

(8) Craving (taöhŒ)                                  Karma Process

(9) Clinging (upŒdŒna)                            5 causes: 1,2,8,9,10.

(10) Process of becoming (bhava)                 


Future:  (11) Rebirth (jŒti)                                  Rebirth Process

(12) Old age and death (jarŒ-marana)           5 results: 3-7.


       The fourth noble truth reveals the means to eliminate craving and thereby bring an end to suffering. This truth teaches the Middle Way (majjhimŒ pa ipadŒ) discovered by the Buddha, the Noble Eightfold Path. (1) Right View (sammŒ di  hi); (2) Right Intention (sammŒ saºkappa); (3) Right Speech (sammŒ vŒcŒ); (4) Right Action (sammŒ kammanta); (5) Right Livelihood (sammŒ Œjīva); (6) Right Effort (sammŒ vŒyŒma); (7) Right Mindfulness (sammŒ sati); (8) Right Concentration (sammŒ samŒdhi). Right speech, right action, and right livelihood make up the aggregate of virtue or moral discipline (sīla); right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration make up the aggregate of concentration (samŒdhi); and right view and right intention make up the aggregate of understanding or wisdom (pa––Œ).


       The practice of the path is explained as gradual training (anupubbasikkhŒ) which unfolds in stages from the first step to the final goal. This gradual training is a subdivision of the threefold division of the path into virtue, concentration, and wisdom. After the renunciation, the follower of the eightfold path should practice virtue; the abandonment of five hindrances (nīvaraöa), namely, sensual desire (kŒmacchanda), ill will (vyŒpŒda), sloth and torpor (thīna-middha), restlessness and remorse (uddhacca-kukkucca), and doubt (vicikicchŒ) under the concentration will be prominent; the next stage is the attainment of absorption (jhŒna) and higher powers (abhi––a). However, these achievements are mundane; the aim of the noble disciple is to uproot the defilements completely and to contemplate onthings as the actually are’ and finally to attain the arahantship.





Doctrine of Karma



       The fundamental teachings of Buddhism are karma and rebirth; they are interrelated. Karma is the law of causation; rebirth is its result. These two doctrines were prevalent in India even before the Buddha; the Buddha explained and formulated them in completeness. All living beings have kamma as their own. The inequality among the mankind is considered to be due to kamma. According to the CèÂakammavibhanga Sutta (MN), when a youth named Subha questioned the Buddha about the inequality of the mankind, the Buddha replied as follows:


All living beings have kamma as their own, their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It is kamma that differentiates beings into low and high states. (kammassakŒ mŒnava sattŒ kammadŒyŒdŒ