|Birth, offerings, death and after
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|Author:||Guest [ Wed May 25, 2005 1:45 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Birth, offerings, death and after|
Birth, offerings, death and after
@ Sunday Times / 22MAY2005
By Upali Salgado
Every day, every moment, there is said to be born on this great good earth, many thousands of babies. At the same time, due to natural causes a number of people die of old age and sickness. Birth (Rebirth - (Jathi) in terms of Buddhist thought) occurs in samsara, i.e. - the cycle of births and deaths and is propelled with a load of Kusala and Akusala Kamma. (The Buddhist Law of Causation).
The operation of kamma and its fruit, the round of karma and the round of fruit, and the manner of their happening is predetermined at birth.
All children cry at the moment of birth, not with joy but in pain. The babe would not know the difference between pain and joy. The cries of the newborn bring tears of joy to the mother, but it is the infant with pain, who perhaps will, in later life, grasp the realities of life, and be a Bodhisattva in the making. There can be no birth and living thereafter without suffering on earth. Pain, sickness (some of a terminal nature), physical handicaps, hunger, despair, loss of wealth, loss of fame, loss of the means to acquire mundane comforts, loss of expectations and gains, grief are a few of the facets of suffering, humans face and undergo.
Root of all evil
The Buddha has pointed out the part played by sensuous feelings such as smell, hearing, taste and sight that would cause craving, which is the root of evil and of suffering. The recognition of the illusion of Self is another obstacle to one's progress and happiness. The conquest of self was Prince Siddhartha's great battle as a Bodhisattva, before gaining Enlightenment. As a Bodhisattva he conquered himself with great perseverance and courage and with numerous forms of dana (gifts and sacrifices of wealth for others’ benefit), Sila (morality) and Bhavana (meditation).
As dana is of prime importance, the subject needs elucidation, being a foreshadow to death. The Buddha gave importance to dana as it manifests kindness, love, compassion and similar human virtues. The virtue of Samvibhaga (sharing) the Buddha advocated to the wealthy.
The purpose of offering a dana (food or gifts) to the Bhikkhus (Buddhist monks) is to rid oneself gradually of attachment to wealth and greed, whilst helping the needy. This should be done ungrudgingly with great joy to oneself. It will at the same time, if made known bring Muditha i.e. joy to others as well. A dana of food should not be given to people selectively, and in competition as a show of wealth, in society. Sadhdha in the giver has to be present when offering a dana.
The Buddha has stated that there are eight major or important forms of dana that accrue merit to those who give. When offering a dana the source must not be ill-gotten wealth.
Forms of dhana
The eight great danas are (1) offering of a Buddha image with an image house (Budu Ge) for common worship, (2) Offer of a Sanghavasa (Residence for monks), (3) Offer of toilets for the Maha Sangha, (4) Offer of a Katina Cheevara, (5) Offer of a Atapirikara, (6) Offer of a Dharma-Dana (Writing of Buddhist scriptures, publishing them etc), and (7) a Sanghika dhana, to monks who have received Upasampada (Higher Ordination).
The Buddha has divided the giving of dana into two main groups. Gifts or dana given to individuals (Puggalika dana), and dhana given to the Maha Sangha (the Bhikkhu order). The merit gained by giving a dana to a Samma Buddha is very great as a Buddha appears in this world very rarely. Also, a dana given to an Arahant is considered to gain great merit. A Sangika dana brings much merit, as many people contribute towards the offerings, and also because it is the Maha Sangha who carry forward the teachings of the Buddha from generation to generation. There can be in the congregation, a monk who is not that virtuous (in his seela), but the giver of the alms should not be disturbed in mind, as it is a Sanghika dana, given not to any particular priest but to the Arya Puggala Maha Sangha, (the Bhikkhu Order).
Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha has stated that there are several kinds of dana. What are they? A dhana given to a guest monk (Aganthuka dana). Next, a dhana given to a monk who is about to leave on a journey (Gamika dana). The third is a dana given to a sick monk (Gilanu-paceya dana). The fourth is a dhana given at a time of a famine (A Dubbhika or Kala dana), a pindapatha dana and the last one is dana given at harvesting time. When giving a dhana, what is most important is the mind thought (chitta) that should be pure, and the giver should not hope for or expect a "return" (such as more wealth), but be happy that the gift or dhana was given, as it was necessary. The purity of the thoughts is what is most important.
Death the leveller
Buddhism emphasises that all component matter is impermanent (annichaya). Life is short. Death is common to all people and is a social leveller. The body that, was once beautiful with make-up and at times perfumed, lies when clinically dead with sweat, and discharges of smelly urine. This onetime walking showpiece, has within itself neatly concealed, bile, phlegm, a bag of urine and a tube of human discharge. From the Buddhist point of view, death is inevitable, and as Buddhists accept and believe in rebirth (or is it rebecoming?) they can prepare themselves, to live with the Master's teaching and face death with a courageous smile. One can think (or be reminded of) of past good and great meritorious deeds done and with calmness of mind, pass beyond the gates, knowing he will come back to serve mankind better.
Uncontrolled sorrow over the demise of a loved one shows lack of understanding of life as a Buddhist. What one can possibly do in such a situation is to offer dhana (food and clothing) in memory of the departed. Thoughts of bygone times when the family as a whole partook in a meritorious act will bring mental solace to the rest of the family.
In Sri Lanka dhana is also offered to the Maha Sangha on the seventh day after the demise; again on the 90th day after the death, and finally, at the end of one year. Mahayana Buddhists offer dhana on the 45th day after death, as well. This is an age-old custom followed by Hindus and Jains too.
Theravada Buddhists believe that the dead will be reborn (1) in the deva kingdom, (2) in the human world, (3) in the animal kingdom, and (4) in purgatory or hell, (5) as Petas in the world of shades, haunting houses and cross roads and canals. In the Atanatiya Sutta the Petas are described as brigands, thieves, cheats and evils doers. Buddhists offer food and clothing to Petas who are in a woeful state. This practice is done by a kinsman to show gratitude and make the departed if born into the Peta world as comfortable as possible. Also to mentally satisfy a relative or householder that, had there been any shortcomings in their relationship with the dead, such faulty conduct could be erased.
Transference of merit to the dead
Transference of merit after a dana to commemorate the dead on a specific date, is an age-old Brahaminic custom, which had over the years crept into Buddhist behaviour. Whilst this practice gained ground in Sri Lanka, some Buddhist intellectuals have doubted the genuineness of this practice, and the idea behind it, as it appears to go against the grain of teachings of Kamma. Further in the Khuddaka Nipata there is a passage where the Buddha states that Punya (merit) is private and is non shareable with others. The Dhammapada states thus "By oneself evil is done, By oneself one becomes pure (in thought, word, deed); Purity (merit) and impurity (demerit) are acquired by oneself. No one can purify another. From that standpoint, the transference of merit to the dead after a Sanghika dana goes against the grain of the great Master's Teaching.
In the Tirokudda Sutta, it is clearly stated that the dead benefit from specific offerings made to the Maha Sangha (especially items of food that the dead relished to have) by relatives. An important point made by Prof. P.D. Premasiri MA (Cantab), Ph.D (Hawaii) is that Petas do benefit not by merit acquired by relatives being transferred to them, in which case it would contradict the doctrine of Kamma, but by rejoicing in the good deeds by others in remembering them. (P 158 "Buddhist Thought and Ritual").
Reading through this article one may conclude that, Buddhism is a pessimistic religion. The Buddha Dhama is pragmatic in outlook. Revelations and miracles play no part in shaping the life of a good Buddhist. He does not accept the position of a powerful creator God either. His concern is to follow the Great Master's teachings to end all suffering in samsara. Nibbana is his goal. Nibbana is the extinction of the fire of craving and lust that leads to suffering. When one looks everywhere there is suffering in its many faceted forms.
In such a scenario, accepting the truth that there is suffering is better than self-deception. Buddhism teaches that there is suffering because always there is cause for suffering. The Noble Gotama Buddha showed us a way to follow his dhamma and to end suffering. No Messiah or divine person is required for us to achieve human happiness. These then are the realities of life. To have a better life now and after, let us live in the Buddha's way. That is the only path to freedom.
|Author:||socratus [ Sun Jul 23, 2006 1:32 pm ]|
Early in the morning, I went to some village. Around me, there were forests and in front of me, there was a ravine. I was delighted with the surrounding me silence and beauty. Suddenly there came a vibration wave, captured the whole brain and I saw that in front of me a noisy broad and quick river (where ravine was) flew. Far off there was a forest. Ancient people existed from the forest and hurried to river. To the right three people stood. Two of them supported a wounded
man. And who was on the left - was me: big and strong. The skin of some animal covered my body. With one hand, I supported the wounded man and in the other, I hold a spear. The vision was distinct and clear. Then vibrations and vision disappeared. Amazingly, I looked at the dry ravine and still heard the noise of the river.
Once, in my past life I was a man from the wild tribe.
Early morning. On a steep mountain, straight on, I climbed up to antique town Pergamum.
The clouds flew under me and they closed and opened the modern downtown. From one side, the sun lighted up beautiful antique town and from the other side shadows of the clouds flying along the downtown. Beautiful.
I saw white stoned destroyed temple of Zeus. I entered and stood still. Suddenly there came a vibration wave and captured the whole brain. It took me and threw on the marble floor, and I began to cry, and was in hysterics: "Oh, Pergamum, oh, Pergamum, what they have done to you!" Far in consciousness, I tried to collect myself and said to myself: "Stand up! You are not crazy." I rose and wondered what had happened. Again there came a vibration wave and threw me on the floor. Again, I cried and was in hysterics.
I rose with tears and it stroke me: "Once I was the main priest of the temple of Zeus and I liked this town and this temple."
In the early cold morning, I hurried to some monastery. Easy Chinese sport slippers did not protect feet from shrill cold of the ground. And cold burnt feet as hot stones. I was walking amazingly. Suddenly vibration waves appeared and captured my brain. I saw myself in the national Tibetan clothes. I hurried somewhere, and went under some angle to meet myself.
We nearly run each other, I became afraid and vision disappeared. The vision was short, but long enough for me to understood that once, in my past life, I was inhabitant of Tibet.
These facts from my life, certainly, are not the proof from the scientific point of view.
And it is correct.
These facts are true only for me. These and other religious experiences have helped me to understand sense of the formulas and laws of physics. But you see not only I have gone through such facts.There are a lot of such people. Such facts are fixed in many books. Tribes and the ancient peoples, in the past and in the present, trusted and trust in immortality of soul, in its ability to incarnation.
But we will take other situation.
The scientists write about " virtual particles and virtual transformations ". Nobody knows, what a "virtual particle " and " virtual transformations " are. I shall remind what Feynman wrote:
"We are obliged to imagine, that our system hardly has moved, even if it really did not move and was not so capable to move. We use small imagined movement to apply a principle of energy conservation."
Such explanation is not convincing. Comparing these two situations, we can understand,
that there are sufficient bases to be surprised.
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