International Society For Philosophers

International Society
For Philosophers

Three Essays on Indian Religion and Philosophy

Viraj Karunananda Hewage

Mental Development Instructions in Buddhist Philosophy

The Ancient Great Master, the Buddha, lived in the 6th century B.C. He was born as a human being and developed his mental faculties and eventually he gained certain mental powers through which he became an extraordinary human being. Thus he was fortunate to realize a doctrine which was unrevealed and unheard before by anyone in the world. Therefore, though the new teaching he realized was not something invented by him, the full credit of rediscovering the whole teaching should be granted to the Buddha himself.

Once while the Buddha was dwelling at Kuru city which is in the present New Delhi in India, he addressed his disciples and said 'O monks, this is the one way for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the ridding of pain and grief, for reaching the path, for the attainment of Nibbana; namely the four establishments of mindfulness'. That is the preamble of the discourse.

This is one of the most sacred and respectable as well as the longest discourse delivered by the Buddha. People read and re-read this discourse with great honor, specially in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. This is certainly a great source of inspiration. In the end of this discourse the Buddha, giving firm assurance said, if one would follow and practice this teaching (in the sutta) he would either attain full bliss of enlightenment or if residues of defilement remain would attain the state of non-returnee. This is, absolutely the most significant discourse to understand the teaching of the Buddha on meditation or mental development. One can state that it is the practical manual of Buddhist meditation. So let us now come to understand the teachings dealt in the discourse. The Buddha at the very beginning said that there are four establishments of mindfulness which, when developed and cultivated conducive to maintain serenity, insight and attain enlightenment here and now. So it is obvious that in this discourse there are instructions for both serenity and insight meditation through which one can attain enlightenment.

The four establishments of mindfulness are:

The establishment of mindfulness of body as body
The establishment of consciousness as consciousness
The establishment of feelings and feelings
The establishment of mental objects as mental objects

Then the Buddha elaborated how to practice these four establishments of mindfulness. To begin with the first one, the Buddha said in order to practice the establishment of mindfulness of body as body, one should choose a congenial place. He recommended three places 1. go to the woods 2. go to a foot of a tree 3. go to an empty house. After selecting a suitable place one has to sit properly. The body should be erect, nose is in line with the navel, half-closed eyes, ears in line with shoulders, tongue should be rested against the upper teeth and keep a calm and quiet mind. Completely relax your body and mind. That is the basic instructions given and then you have to practise mindfulness of breathing. When you focus your attention on your breath you can understand the flow of your breath. That is your home object. One has to continue this meditation vigilantly, diligently and wholeheartedly. In this context the body means not the physical formation but one's breath. As such, one has to establish mindfulness of breathing for the success of this meditation. When practiced, there are 16 different steps of breath to be understood.

The Buddha again pointed out that there are five other objects for the establishment of mindfulness of body. We shall now examine these five objects in brief.

l. Mindfulness of the four postures

In our daily life whatever we are committed to our postures could be summarized into four; namely, standing, walking, sitting and sleeping. So the Buddha admonished to be mindful on the action done while we are in these postures.

2. Mindfulness (clear awareness) of all actions

The Buddha said, 'When going forward or back, be aware of what you are doing. When looking forward or back be aware of what you are doing. When wearing your garments and ornaments be aware of what you are doing. When eating, drinking, chewing, swallowing and savoring be aware of what you are doing. When passing excrement or urine be aware of what you are doing. When walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep and waking up, in speaking or staying silent be aware of what you are doing.' That is how one has to be aware of one's actions.

3. Mindfulness on the repulsiveness of body

In this section one has to reflect upon the nature of one's own body and honestly and realistically understand the nature of the different parts of the body such as head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, blood, bones, kidney, pus, etc.

4. Mindfulness on the four elements

There are four great elements in the world. Things animate and inanimate, are composed of these four great elements; namely earth, water, fire and air. When one practices meditation one has to pay attention to the body and be mindful on the four elements of the body. If one is mindful one can understand the four elements in one's daily consumption.

5. Mindfulness on a corpse

According to this teaching one has to be mindful to understand the nature of a corpse. After one's death, if not embalmed, it will bloat, discolor and fester. In the ancient days the corpses were thrown away in to the charnel ground. Then the practitioners were able to go there and examine the corpse and compare with their own body, death and the nature afterwards. What we could do today in order to practice this meditation is that we can be mindful of the corpse after visiting a funeral of a person, may be one of our own relatives.

Consequently, the Buddha, in this discourse, very clearly explained how to practice the establishment of feelings as feelings. In line with the teaching of the Buddha there are 108 types of feelings (read Bahuvedaniya Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya). But in general, the Buddha points out three kinds of feeling in many of his discourses. Feeling arises dependent on contact. The three kinds of feelings are: 1. pleasant feeling 2. painful feeling 3. neither pleasant nor painful feeling. When one is mindful, one can understand the different feelings. When there is a pleasant feeling one has to understand it as a pleasant feeling, when there is a painful feeling one has to understand it as a painful feeling and when the feeling is neither pleasant nor painful one has to understand it as it is. It is to be clearly understood that it is because of feeling that craving which is the root of all unwholesome things and the cause of the cycle of births and deaths arises. And then dependent on craving clinging arises and so forth.

The third establishment of mindfulness, in accordance with the discourse is the establishment of consciousness. Consciousness is the most vital energy in our body. Consciousness itself is a sense base. According to the Abhidhamma the consciousness could be classified into 121. When consciousness is based on eye, it is called eye-consciousness, ear, it is called ear-consciousness, in like manner, when it is based on nose it is called nose-consciousness, tongue, it is called tongue consciousness, body it is called body-consciousness and mind, it is called mind-consciousness. When one practices this meditation one has to be aware of the nature of consciousness. It means being aware of what type of consciousness whether the consciousness is lustful or free from lust, hating or free from hate, deluded or free from delusion etc.

The last, but not the least, is the establishment of mindfulness on mental objects. This is the consequences of practicing the first three establishments. In other words this is the realization aspect of the whole teaching. When one practices, develops and cultivates mindfulness of the first three one can penetratively realize the nature of five hindrances (sensual desire, ill-will, sloth-and-torpor, restlessness, and doubt), the five aggregates of existence (form, feeling, perception, volitional formation, and consciousness), the six internal bases (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind), six external bases (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and mental object), the seven factors of Enlightenment (mindfulness, investigation of the dhamma, energy, rapture, tranquility, concentration and equanimity). These seven factors of Enlightenment, the Buddha said, are to be perfectly developed.

Furthermore, one can realize the four Noble Truths:

the suffering as a facet of truth
the cause of suffering as a facet of truth
the cessation of suffering as a. facet of truth
the noble path leading to the cessation of suffering as a facet of truth

That itself is the realization of the teachings of the Buddha. If one can understand and realize the four Noble Truths one can realize the three characteristics of existence (impermanence, dissatisfaction and soullessness) and the Dependent Origination. With the realization of these three main teachings of the Buddha one can understand and realize the whole teaching of the Buddha and attain supreme bliss of Enlightenment. That is the goal of the teaching of the Buddha. In the end of this discourse the Buddha stated that if one would practice this teaching perfectly, as said, for 7 days one can attain Enlightenment.

© Viraj Karunananda Hewage 2005



Poojamukta Vyas

Spiritual Spirit in Indian Religion

Religion is nothing but in brief a moral code of conduct. A man or woman from any society or any part of the world should definitely know what is his/ her moral duty. This thing is very sure that if a person acts according to moral values he should not have to worry about any difficulty or any kind of legal or social complications.

A well settled definition and meaning of 'Dharma' is 'Dharyati iti Dharm'. Everybody should act accordingly Dharma.

Dharma has two facets: one is state made laws and the other is moral laws. One is legal and the other is spiritual. Dharm is, the by product of the manifestation a little or more, of the Atman, in life, action and enter human relations in society. Vedanta treats Dharma as the link between the physical sciences and the science of spirituality, the adhyatma vidya which accounts for the sustenance of the Sanatana Dharma, eternal values. No religions disagree about basic moral duties. Differences of opinion from different religions are not basically in those religions but in fact these are by understanding or way of expression, the way of following the rules of basic fundamentals of the religion.

So it is very necessary to forget the difference of opinion and difference of expression in way of method (padaati). One should follow the human religion. The human being is the center of every religion and it is true that all religions are basically meant for human beings.

As we all know, the culture and moral values present a true perspective of the development of any society or nation. They tell us to what extent a society or nation has developed itself. The culture and moral values of a particular society or nation serve as measuring devices. They also help to evaluate the characteristics of the citizen belonging to that particular society or nation.

In this context when we talk about the nation India, the land of ancient culture and civilization, this holds a comprehensive, extraordinary and unique place in the context of values and spiritual spirit. India is one the country in the world, the culture of which has always survived due to its unique fundamental values. Morality is an inseparable component of it which by maintaining its perpetual presence and continuous progress has negated the evils like fanaticism, fundamentalism, diehardness, disunity and others, and has propagated the message of harmony, of live and let live and given the principle of vasudhaiva kutumbakam, 'the world as a family'. The message of this formula conveyed by this country thousands of years ago had a deep impact on the entire world. The reason behind this influence is that this approach towards this spirit value, peace has directly or indirectly been built by contribution of knowledge obtained and deed, and of course, real experience.

The Indian view of spirituality from ancient times also clarifies that the Indian approach towards this spirit starts at a personal level. Therefore in Indian religion the person becomes 'God' with the help of his Guru's gyana and by Atamgyan. In short, one who knows himself he knows thyself. Every religion has a same importance and same respect. But Indian Philosophy depicts that the human being is either rewarded or punished according to his own deeds. Indian religion gives the message or meaning of peace and moral values in general as a condition which is fulfilled only when it exists in man's heart, in his daily practices or actions and thoughts. But Sanatam Dharma particularly in Hindu Philosophy has a particular place for 'Moksh' or 'Mukti'. It gives a special touch of Adhayatma (Spiritual) of Sanatam Dharma. Due to this mukti or moksh, a man must became introvert, then only he can use it in search of 'Atama and Atmanubhuti'. It is very interesting and enchanting when man becomes introvert and as well as he uses it to enter in his swaroop or Atma. It is clear in the sense that one who wants to know the meaning of human life must know the importance of 'Atma' which in fact reflects the 'Parmatma'.

At last we can say that the Indian religion is not limited to one life style and stream of Avatari purush (God). But it has a spiritual goal of life also. So let's try to build a new nation, the citizens of which will work for the welfare of each other shedding the difference based on religion, caste, communalism and fundamentalism. Ultimately we all are same or we all working for the same goal. The history of the origin of a particular religion, or the place of origin of religion or person who started the particular religion may be different, but no doubt the gist of religion is same in every case.

© Poojamukta Vyas 2005



Selva Wenshen

It is said that religion will not mention anything straight. It is only faith that will realize it. All religions have many things in common. They will have many statements that do not go by science. It is up to the individual to filter all that is given and take the right path. This is the reason we find flaws in religions. Probably one can quote from a work of Shakespeare where the spirits guide sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly.

But one who understands in the right way will go 'silent'. In one way it's better we don't know them all.

Say, for example, there are few places in India where you just give your finger print. They would tell your name, history and certain future happenings that you cannot change. In fact they deny to meet people forehand who go there trying to explore the technique. It is not required for those people to write papers and publish them. They have all the science. All the inventions that are made now in the form of science have already been explored. If we make them all, then spirits will deny to play the role of evil. When there is no evil there is nothing to measure good. Then we end up 'nothing'. It is only we who rediscover them in the form of science.

Science is nothing but what our nerves can perceive with certain functions. Science is governed by rules, mostly in the form of Physics. And if any of these rules are not consistent then we end up only as theories. These theories may contain some mistakes. When these mistakes are cleared they become rules again. And the one who makes them consistent is the nature that made the nerves with certain functions.

That makes this world of values. Actually value has no value. Just think the world in developed. All are rich. Then we might ask for 'what's the final destination?' Why that far even if you are given all the wealth. You may ask for the purpose of your existence. People who are in quest of this answer become saints in some cases. And they really don't enjoy what one would when they don't go in for this quest. All that matters is sustained development. For example it is never possible for Tony to boast himself about his intelligence and works. If he does it he will lose the ability to get ideas for his thinking. That's the reason why intelligent people of great wisdom seem to be humble. Let's take the example of author of Ramayana, a holy book of Hinduism. Valmiki, he was a thief in the first half of his life. Changed later to a wise man and wrote this book. As setting back to what we say. Only a good thief can become a better policeman. In a way it can be said all have the same values. But the way it is distributed is different. Probably the link between science and religion is missing for a reason.

Whether our questions end up unanswered depends on the questions we ask. Probably we can ask questions like what, why, where, when, how, which, so what, if, is it, then, whom, whose. But we should also realize that we miss certain types of question that will help us find the answers which we haven't got the answer for. Then let's work on this. People who go in similar direction in quest of this end up saying theories which show their own state of mind. And one could observe they would have floundered around for a long time. But those who have become successful in finding the answer have gone silent. And those who make it back from being silent, still remain calm with great energy in them. And stay enjoying nature. And life. Not scared of death. Not caring for anything happening around. But very wise for sure.

But for sure: One will know them all after meeting death.

© Selva Wenshen 2005


[From Philosophy Pathways issue 109.]