Famous Lay Disciple
It is often mistakenly thought that it is the job of monks and nuns to practise and teach the Dhamma, while it is the job of lay men and women to practise the Five Precepts and support the monks and nuns by providing them with their needs. This is an incorrect and dangerous belief and in countries where it is widely accepted, it has helped lead to a corruption of the Dhamma. The Buddha’s goal was to develop a community of disciples, ordained and lay, men and women, who were well-educated in the Dhamma, who practiced it fully, and who taught it to and learned it from each other. While the Buddha praised Anathapindika for his great generosity, he reserved his highest praise for Citta of Macchikasanda and Hatthaka of Alavi because they were both skilful in and diligent at giving something infinitely more precious than material things – the Dhamma.
Citta was the model Buddhist layman whose learning and behaviour the Buddha urged others to emulate. On one occasion, the Buddha said to the monks. “Should a devoted mother wish to encourage her beloved only son in a proper way she should say to him: ‘Try to become like the disciple Citta and the disciple Hatthaka of Alavi. Citta was a rich merchant and landowner in the town of Macchikasanda, not far from Savatthi. He seems to have heard the Dhamma for the first time from the monk Mahanama, after which he offered a park he owned to the Sangha and in it built a spacious monastery. After that, any monks or nuns coming to Macchikasanda were always assured of a warm welcome and adequate support. The Buddha considered Citta to be the most learned and lucid of all the lay Dhamma teachers. After accepting the Dhamma, he explained it to the other citizens of the town, converting five hundred of them, and on one occasion took all of the new converts to Savatthi to see the Buddha. The discourses in the Tipitaka preached to and by Citta indicate his profound grasp of the most subtle aspects of the Dhamma and indeed later he became a Non-Returner.
Once a group of monks were sitting in a pavilion in the monastery that Citta had built discussing Dhamma. Some were saying that it is the sense objects that fetter the mind while others suggested that it is the sense organs that cause the problems. Cita arrived at the monastery and when he saw the monks he asked what they were discussing and they told him. Citta said, “Sirs, these two things, sense objects and sense organs, are different. I will use a simile so that you can understand what I mean. Suppose a black ox and a white ox were tied together with a yoke or rope. Now would it be right to say that the black ox was the fetter of the white ox or that the white ox was the fetter of the black ox?” “Certainly not,” answered the monks. “The black ox is not the fetter of the white ox nor is the white ox the fetter of the black ox. They are both fettered by the yoke or rope.” Citta agreed and then said: “Well, sirs, in the same way, the eye is not the fetter of visual objects nor are visual objects the fetter of the eye. But rather, the desire that arises from the meeting of the two, that is the fetter. And it is the same with the other sense organs and their objects.” The monks were delighted by Citta’s lucidity in explaining and answering the question.
On another occasion, the monk Kamabhu, perplexed by one of the Buddha’s sayings, asked Citta if he could explain what it meant. The saying was:
Pure-limbed, white-canopied, one-wheeled,
The chariot rolls on.
Look at he who is coming,
He is a faultless stream-cutter, he is boundless.
Citta explained the verse with great originality and insight. He said: “Pure-limbed’ means virtue, ‘white-canopied’ means freedom, ‘one-wheeled’ means mindfulness, ‘rolls on means coming and going. ‘Chariot’ means the body, ‘he who is coming’ means the enlightened one, ‘stream’ means craving, ‘faultless’, ‘stream-cutter’ and ‘boundless’ all mean one who has destroyed the defilements.” Citta’s ability to give a spiritual interpretation to what appeared to be merely a beautiful verse surprised and delighted Kamabhu.
But Citta was not just able to reach the Dhamma, he was also able to demonstrate its superiority over other doctrines. Once Nigantha Nataputta, the founder of Jainism and one of the most well-known religious teachers of the time arrived in Macchikasanda with a large number of his disciples. Citta went to meet Nataputta who, knowing he was a disciple of the Buddha, asked him, “Do you believe, as the Buddha teaches, that it is possible to attain a meditative state where all thought stops?” “ No, “answered Citta, “The Buddha teaches this but I do not believe it.” Surprised and pleased that Citta seemed to be saying that he doubted some of the Buddha’s teaching, Nataputta looked around at all his disciples saying as he did, “See what a straightforward and clever person Citta is. Anyone who could believe in a meditative state where all thought stops might just as well believe that the mind can be caught in a net or that the Ganges can be stopped flowing by using the hand.” When he had finished, Citta asked: “What is better, venerable sir, to know or to believe?” “Knowledge is far better than belief,” replied Nataputta, “Well, I can attain that meditative state where all thought ceases. So why should I believe what the Buddha says is true. I know it is true.” Annoyed at being caught out, Nataputta again looked around at his disciples and said: “See what a cunning, deceitful and crooked person this Citta is.” Remaining calm and unruffled by this outburst, Citta said: “If your first statement is true than your second one must be false, and if your second statement is true then your first one must be false,” and having said that he got up and left leaving Nataputta struggling for a reply.”
Later in life, Citta became ill and it was obvious to his family that he did not have long to live. As he lay on his death-bed, devas gathered around him telling him to set his mind on being reborn into a position of wealth and power. Knowing that he was a Non-Returner, destined to be reborn into one of the high heaven realms, he said to the devas, “That is impermanent and will have to be left behind in the end.” Not being able to see the devas, Citta’s family and friends thought he was delirious. Citta told them he was talking to devas and then after urging those gathered around to take refuge in the Three Jewels, he peacefully passed away.
(Extracted from “The Buddha & His Disciples” by S. Dhammika)
Buddhism and Politics
The Buddha had gone beyond all worldly affairs but still gave advice on good governance.
The Buddhist approach to political power is the moralization and the responsible use of public power. The Buddha preached non-violence and peace as a universal message. He did not approve of violence or the destruction of life, and declared that there is no such thing as a ‘just’ war. He taught: ‘The victor breeds hatred, the defeated lives in misery. He who renounces both victory and defeat is happy and peaceful.’ Not only did the Buddha teach non-violence and peace, He was perhaps the first and only religious teacher who went to the battlefield personally to prevent the outbreak of a war. He diffused tension between the Sakyas and the Koliyas who were about to wage war over distribution rights of the waters of Rohini. He also dissuaded King Ajatasattu from attacking the Kingdom of the Vajjis.
The Buddha discussed the importance and the prerequisites of a good government. He showed how the country could become corrupt, degenerate and unhappy when the head of the government becomes corrupt and unjust. He spoke against corruption and how a government should act based on humanitarian principles.
The Buddha once said: ‘When the ruler of a country is just and good, the ministers become just and good, when the ministers are just and good, the higher officials become just and good, when the higher officials are just and good, the rank and file become just and good, when the rank and file become just and good, the people become just and good.’
In the CAKKAVATTI SIHANADA SUTTA, the Buddha said that immorality and crime, such as theft, falsehood, violence, hatred, cruelty, could arise from poverty. Kings and governments may try to suppress crime through punishment, but it is futile to eradicate crimes through force.
In the KUTADANTA SUTTA, the Buddha suggested economic development instead of force to reduce crime. The government should use the country’s resources to improve the economic conditions of the country. It could embark on agricultural and rural development, provide financial support to those who undertake an enterprise and business, provide adequate wages for workers to maintain a decent life with human dignity.
In the JATAKA stories, the Buddha gave 10 rules for Good Government, known as Dasa Raja Dharma. These ten rules can be applied even today by any government which wishes to rule the country peacefully. According to these rules a ruler must:
1. be liberal and avoid selfishness,
2. maintain a high moral character,
3. be prepared to sacrifice his own pleasure for the well being of the subjects,
4. be honest and maintain absolute integrity,
5. be kind and gentle,
6. lead a simple life for the subjects to emulate,
7. be free from hatred of any kind,
8. exercise non violence,
9. practise patience, and
10. respect public opinion to promote peace and harmony.
Regarding the behavior of rulers, He further advised:
1. A good ruler should act impartially and should not be biased and discriminate between one particular group of subjects against another.
2. A good ruler should not harbour any form of hatred against any of his subjects.
3. A good ruler should show no fear whatsoever in the enforcement of the law, if it is justifiable.
4. A good ruler must possess a clear understanding of the law to be enforced. It should not be enforced just because the ruler has the authority to enforce the law. It must be done in a reasonable manner and with common sense. (CAKKAVATTI SIHANADA SUTTA)
In the MILINDA PANHA, it is stated: ‘If a man, who is unfit, incompetent, immoral, improper, unable and unworthy of kingship, has enthroned himself a king or a ruler with great authority, he is subject to a variety of punishment by the people, because, being unfit and unworthy, he has placed himself unrighteously in the seat of sovereignty. The ruler, like others who violate and transgress moral codes and basic rules of all social laws of mankind, is equally subject to punishment; and moreover, to be censured is the ruler who conducts himself as a robber of the public.’ In a Jataka story, it is mentioned that a ruler who punishes innocent people and does not punish the culprit is not suitable to rule a country.
The king always improves himself and carefully examines his own conduct in deeds, words and thoughts, trying to discover and listen to public opinion as to whether or not he had been gulty of any faults and mistakes in ruling the kingdom. If it is found that he rules unrighteously, the public will complain that they are ruined by the wicked ruler with unjust treatment, punishment, taxation, or other oppressions including corruption of any kind, and they will react against him in one way or another. On the contrary, if he rules righteously they will bless him: ‘Long live His Majesty.’ (MAJJHIMA NIKAYA)
(Extracted from “What Buddhists Believe” by Most Venerable Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda)
The Future Buddha
‘I am not the first Buddha to come upon this earth; nor shall I be the last. Previously, there were many Buddhas who appeared in this world.
In due time, another Buddha will arise in this world, within this world cycle.’
When the Buddha was about to pass away, Venerable Ananda and many other disciples wept. The Buddha said, ‘Enough, Ananda. Do not allow yourself to be troubled. Do not weep. Have I not already told you that it is in the very nature of things that they must pass away. We must be separated from all that is near and dear to us. The foolish person conceives his idea of Self; the wise man sees there is no ground on which to build the Self. Thus the wise man has a right conception of the world. He will realize that all component things will be dissolved again; but the Truth will always remain.’
The Buddha continued: ‘Why should I preserve this body when the body of the excellent law will endure? I am resolved. I have accomplished my purpose and have attended to the work set by me. Ananda, for a long time you have been very near to me in thoughts, words and acts of much love beyond all measure. You have done well, Ananda. Be earnest in effort and you too will soon be free from bondages! You will be free from sensuality, from delusion, and from ignorance.’ Suppressing his tears, Ananda said to the Buddha, ‘Who shall teach us when You are gone?’ And the Buddha advised him to regard His Teaching as the Master.
The Buddha continued again: ‘I am not the first Buddha to come upon earth; nor shall I be the last. In due time, another Buddha will arise in this world, a Holy One, a Supremely Enlightened One, endowed with wisdom, in conduct auspicious, knowing the universe, an incomparable leader of men, a master of devas and men. He will reveal to you the same Eternal Truths which I have taught you. He will proclaim a religious life, wholly perfect and pure; such as I now proclaim.’ ‘How shall we know him?’, asked Ananda. The Buddha replied, ‘He will be known as Maitreya which means kindness or friendliness.’
Buddhists believe that those people who at present are doing meritorious deeds by leading a religious life will have a chance to be reborn as human beings in the time of Maitreya Buddha and will obtain Nirvana identical with that of Gautama Buddha. In this way they will find salvation through the guidance of His Teaching. His Teaching will become a hope of the remote future for everybody. However, according to the Buddha devout religious people can gain this Nirvanic bliss at any time if they really work for it irrespective of whether a Buddha appears or not.
(MAHA PARINIRVANA SUTTA)
(Adapted from “What Buddhists Believe” by Most Venerable Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda)
THE WORDS OF TRUTH
Selections from THE DHAMMAPADA
Mind is the Forerunner of all (Mental) status, mind is their chief, and mind-made for them. If one speaks or acts, with a defiled mind, then suffering follows one even as the wheel follows the hoof of the draught-ox.
Mind is the forerunner of all (mental) states, mind is their chief, mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts, with a pure mind, happiness follows one as one’s shadow that does not leave one.
‘He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me : the hatred of those who harbour such thoughts is not appeased.
Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world; it is appeased by love. This is an eternal Law.
Whosoever is energetic, mindful, pure in conduct, discriminating, self-restrained, right-living, vigilant, his fame steadily increases.
By endeavour, diligence, discipline, and self-mastery, let the wise man make (of himself) an island that no flood can overwhelm.
Fools, men of little intelligence, give themselves over to negligence, but the wise man protects his diligence as a supreme treasure.
Give not yourselves unto negligence; have no intimacy with sense pleasures. The man who meditates with diligence attains much happiness.
This fickle, unsteady mind, difficult to guard, difficult to control, the wise man makes straight, as the fletcher the arrow.
Hard to restrain, unstable is this mind; it flits wherever it lists. Good it is to control the mind. A controlled mind brings happiness.
As a beautiful flower that is full of hue but lacks fragrance, even so fruitless is the well-spoken word of one who does not practise it.
‘I have sons, I have wealth’: thinking thus the fool is troubled. Indeed, he himself is not his own. How can sons or wealth be his?
Even if all his life a fool associates with a wise man, he will not understand the Truth, even as the spoon (does not understand) the flavour of the soup.
The fool thinks an evil deed as sweet as honey, so long as it does not ripen (does not produce results). But when it ripens, the fool comes to grief.
Even as a solid rock is unshaken by the wind, so are the wise unshaken by praise or blame.
Even as a lake, deep, extremely clear and tranquil, so do the wise become tranquil having heard the Teaching.
Calm is the thought, calm the word and deed of him who, rightly knowing, is wholly freed, perfectly peaceful and equipoised.
One may conquer in battle a thousand times a thousand men, yet he is the best of conquerors who conquers himself.
Though one may live a hundred years with no true insight and self-control, yet better, indeed, is a life of one day for a man who meditates in wisdom.
Make haste in doing good; restrain your mind from evil. Whosoever is slow in doing good, his mind delights in evil.
It is well with the evil-doer until his evil (deed) ripens. But when his evil (deed) bears fruit, he then sees its ill effects.
It is ill, perhaps, with the doer of good until his good deed ripens. But when it bears fruit, then he sees the happy results.
Do not think lightly of evil, saying: ‘It will not come to me’. Even a water-pot is filled by the falling of drops. Likewise the fool,gathering it drop by drop, fills himself with evil.
Do not think lightly of good, saying: ‘It will not come to me’. Even as a water-pot is filled by the falling of drops, so the wise man, gathering it drop by drop, fills himself with good.
All tremble at weapons; all fear death. Comparing others with oneself, one should not slay, nor cause to slay.
He who, seeking his own happiness, torments with the rod creatures that are desirous of happiness, shall not obtain happiness hereafter.
The Man of little learning (ignorant) grows like a bull; his flesh grows, but not his wisdom.
If a man practices himself what he admonishes others to do, he himself, being well-controlled, will have control over others. It is difficult, indeed, to control oneself.
Oneself is one’s own protector (refuge); what other protector (refuge) can there be? With oneself fully controlled, one obtains a protection (refuge) which is hard to gain.
By oneself indeed is evil done and by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone and by oneself indeed is one purified. Purity and impurity depend on oneself. No one can purify another.
Better is the gain of Entering the Stream than sole sovereignty over the earth, than going to heaven, than rule supreme over the entire universe.
Not to do any evil, to cultivate good, to purify one’s mind, this is the Teaching of the Buddhas.
Health is the best gain; contentment is the best wealth. A trusty friend is the best kinsman; Nibbana is the supreme bliss.