Vesak thoughts from ‘Beyond the Net’

'Beyond the Net', a comprehensive website on Theravada Buddhism presents another creative and illuminating gift of the Dhamma, its Vesak Supplement 2003.
Amongst the many innovative presentations found here are 'Pilgrimage to India' an audio file presented in Sinhala. Pilgrimage to India is for the benefit of devotees who are unable to visit the most sacred places for the Buddhist; Buddhagaya where the Buddha attained Enlightenment, Isipathanaramaya - Varanasi where the Wheel of the Dhamma was set in motion by the Buddha for the first time by reciting the Dhammachakkapavattana Sutta, Jethavanaramaya-Savatti where the Buddha spent most of his Vassas, Kushinara where the Mahaparanibbana took place and Lumbini - Nepal where Prince Siddhartha was born. Even for those who have already visited these sacred sites, this would serve to generate and proliferate kusal citta. In Maha Paranibbana Sutta the Buddha invites the attention of all Buddhists to these sacred places.

The Sutta discussions are another interesting presentation conducted by a world renowned Buddhist authority, Bhikkhu Bodhi. This is presented as a series of audio files and has been compiled from a series of sutta discussions held at the Buddhist Publications Society. The series commences from Vattupama Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya.

Venerable Katukurunde Nanananda's writings are presented in Sinhala and English. 'Prathipatti Pooja' (in Sinhala) emphasizes the value of 'Patipada' in this Path as against performing rites and rituals particularly emphasizing the significance of the arising of a Buddha. In lighter vein he presents the hilarious 'Have a drink-of the Nectar of Dhamma' a reminder to worldlings about the Buddha's pronouncement that "all beings are insane (sabbe satta ummaththako)".

On a more serious note he continues with 'Nibbana Sermons' the series of sermons delivered by him to meditating monks in the Nissarana Vanaya Hermitage, Meethirigala to dispel the misconceptions about Nibbana.

Gamini Priyantha, an experienced lay meditation teacher has been introduced to the site for the first time. Most fascinating amongst his teachings presented in the Vesak Supplement is the 'Contemplation on the decay of a dead body' which gives a vivid description of our predicament after death. The dynamic flash depicting the stages of the decay of a corpse makes it a unique presentation which should be read by all to realize the true nature of our body.

The 'Path to Nibbana' presented by Mr. Priyantha is an inducement for anyone to tread the Path and would help readers to assess where each one of us stands. The 'Sankalpana' a series of reflections in Sinhala drives home some sound practical advice to lay meditators who are caught up in a web of obstacles having little or no hope of an escape.

Beyond the Net serves as the official site of the Buddhist Publication Society and presents its regular mailings and also of Dhamma Kuta of Hindagala, the Vippassana Meditation Centre conducted by Goenkaji .

Amongst the other notable contributors to the site are Mithra Wettimuny who presents a practical guide to meditation and Major General Ananda Weerasekara.

The assortment of Vesak e-Cards made available at the site depict the human predicament and the Buddha's solutions.

Beyond the Net is a magnanimous gesture, a dhamma dana by B.P. De Silva Holdings of Singapore and is managed by B.P. De Silva Ceylon Ltd. The site which was launched in 1997, is maintained by Lanka On Line Pvt. Ltd, a leading software development company specializing in dynamic and highly interactive portals and applications.

B.P. De Silva Group, originated in 1916 in Singapore and has now expanded its operations to Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Beyond the Net presents the dhamma as a living experience with the objective of assisting those who are treading the Path seriously.

It is also designed to meet the aspirations of non-Buddhists who are seeking answers to issues hitherto not answered by their own faith.

Beyond the net can be accessed at ''

Why jealousy?

By Deepal Sooriyaarachchi
Noticing a jak tree full of fruits, a passer-by said: "Oh, there is enough jak fruit on this tree for the whole village". Before he could barely pass the tree, the branch that had the largest number of fruits fell off. The fruits were literally shared with the whole village.

On another occasion, a lady remarked about some velvet apples on a tree. "What a beautiful sight," she said. The next morning half the fruits were on the ground. The owner of the tree collected the fallen fruits and showed them to the lady and said "see what happened after what you said." "But there is a lot more on the tree" was her response. The next day the remaining fruits were also on the ground.

An old woman visited a relative in a nearby town. The little son was just learning his first words in English. "How nice, your son speaks English," she commented. The same night the child started to stammer until he was blessed at the temple. A mill owner found that whenever his father visited the mill, he was sure to experience a problem. The machines would develop a mechanical problem or a person would get injured. So he finally prevented his father from coming to the mill.

If you happen to come from a rural background in Sri Lanka you are sure to have a collection of such anecdotes. There we talk of the evil eye (es waha), evil word (kata vaha) and vicious thoughts (ho waha). Some people are supposed to possess these evil qualities. A casual remark or a cursory glance by them can cause negative results.

The basis of this phenomenon can be attributed to jealousy. Being jealous is so widespread that one would wonder whether it is part of our national identity.

Let us explore this 'jealousy', which is a human feeling. What is it, why does it happen, how does it happen, how can we control it?

If you were asked to group all the people in this world into two categories how would you do it? "Male and female", is perhaps one answer. But there is an even simpler way - "I" and "Others".

Me and mine
What belongs to me is 'mine' and the balance is 'not mine'. Everything in this world can be included in this categorization. The body, knowledge, virtues, wealth, position, experiences, reputation, health etc. the list goes on.

The moment we think on the basis of "I" and "Mine", we want 'what is mine' to be better and bigger or superior. For example, the desire to have a better figure, a better capacity to learn, higher capability to perform, to be wealthier, all these intentions are because of this fundamental desire to have a bigger better I and Mine. I would like to call it "My Stock".

The other dimension of this condition is the constant comparison of oneself with others, especially with regard to aspects of life that you feel are more important at a given moment of time. For example, a student will want to do better in studies. The parents too would want their son or daughter to be better than the other students.

Someone who is concerned about the beauty of the body will want to be better looking than the others. Remember the queen in the Snow White story? A singer will want his singing to be superior and to be more popular than other singers.

Because of this comparison one will feel he/she is equal to someone who is the point of reference, or inferior or superior to that reference point. This happens without much deliberation.

As a result of this comparison, we want to have 'My stock' of all positive things to be greater or superior than the others in the range of our comparison.

It is interesting to note this comparison range. We prefer to compare ourselves mostly with people who have some relevance to us. They are usually close to us. They can be members of the same family, extended family, family circle of relatives, neighbours, class mates, co-workers of the same grade, those who used to work with us, members of the same profession, close friends etc. In most instances the other person either is at the same level as us or would have been at the same level before.

The comparison takes place with regard to any of the possessions or personal qualities of the other person as mentioned before.

Why is it that we do not feel the same with those we cannot relate to?

If at the end of this comparison you feel smaller or inferior to the other person then that is a situation you do not want to be in. You can feel sorry for yourself first. This is a mild form of anger. It is a dislike. You feel uncomfortable with this new piece of processed information in your mind.

Our habit is to react. For example, while being seated why do we change our posture so very often? That is because we feel uncomfortable being in the same position. Similarly throughout our life we seek pleasure and wish to avoid pain, not only physically but mentally as well.

Let us look at a few examples.
Think of a time when you were sick with a stomachache. If others in the family were enjoying ice cream while you were in bed, how did you feel? How did you feel when you had to sit and study when the others went for a movie? Obviously you felt sad and dejected, a bit angry with yourself and with the others! Why? Because at that moment your stock of happiness was less than the others in your immediate family. This is the fundamental state or the root of jealousy.

This feeling can manifest itself in many forms. It can be very subtle or can be very gross. It is not that easy to hide this feeling. As it is a form of anger, it is a very powerful emotion. It can come out both as words as well as deeds. Any action when tainted with anger can take a different form. It is like a coat of paint given to any action. When we speak, if the words are coated with love then they are soothing words, but when they are tainted with anger they become harsh.

This thought of feeling smaller compared to a person you can relate to, can be very uncomfortable. If the encounters with the other person are too frequent then every encounter brings about that self-pity or that subtle form of anger.

Driven by this state of being uncomfortable, we want to do something about it to feel better. If you are not mindful you will not be able to see the difference between the thought and the action in this agitated situation. Sometimes the reaction can come so swiftly you will not realize until it has happened. The response can be a look, a casual remark, even the way you walk. If the feeling is too much to bear, one may stop facing the other person. That is when they look the other way when they meet face to face. Ignoring the other person for no fault of the other can be because of this.

Dealing with jealousy
Sometimes the person who feels jealous may find a trivial incident to get angry with the other person and break the relationship. While talking, attempting to belittle the achievements of the other person by a tongue in cheek remark can be a result of this feeling. Even in the absence of the other person, one can speak ill of him because of jealousy. When jealousy is strong, the person cannot bear it and can even resort to harming the other person.

When one feels jealous about another person he/she spends a lot of time thinking about that person thinking of ways and means to reduce whatever the positives the other person may have. Sometimes such a person may go to great lengths to destroy the other person's success.

Like many other habits that form our character, feeling jealous can also turn out to be a habit. When it is your mental programme that becomes the framework through which you see the world, then it becomes the predominant character. Then it becomes normal to feel jealous about another person. Perhaps it is people like these who possess evil powers. If it is natural to feel jealous what should we do?

First become aware that there is jealousy in your mind. Don't feel bad that you feel jealous about a person who is so close to you. Just accept the thought. If you can, just label the thought as 'Jealousy'. Observe very carefully the other thoughts that emerge in your mind. This non-interfering observation itself will prevent the thought from developing further.

Now that you are aware of the thought, try and act as if you are not jealous. Reflect upon the futile nature of wasting your time and effort thinking about another person and how harm can be inflicted upon that other person. Spend that time to develop yourself.

That is when you discover there is jealousy in your mind. But to prevent it becoming a habit we must develop the mental state that is the opposite of jealousy. One should develop 'muditha' or Unselfish Joy. In order to develop 'muditha' in your mind, make it a habit to congratulate others when they do well, appreciate their achievements and genuinely wish them success. Tell yourself, "I am so happy that so and so is doing well". Keep saying this until it becomes your second nature. A mind that cultivates 'muditha' will have very little room for negative thoughts such as jealousy.

Freeing the soul

By Ven. Professor Dhammavihari
The full moon day of the month of May every year marks the birth and enlightenment of a young Sakyan of North Indian origin named Siddhartha Gautama more than two and a half millennia ago.

These two events in his life are separated by thirty-five years of fruitful activity. All events in his life are down to earth and take place here amidst humans in the Gangetic valley of India.

At the age of twenty nine, young Siddhartha, with a deeper sensitivity to the realities of the human body like its inherent weaknesses of decay, disease and death and its emotional tribulations like greed, hatred, jealousy and rivalry, felt the need to reduce the pain of these in humans and ultimately eliminate these disturbances, at both levels of the physical and the metapsychical.

It is this endeavour to liberate the humans of these distressing realities of human existence that earned him the title of Lord of Compassion on becoming the Buddha.
He also needed transcendental wisdom to reach his goal of liberation from human bondage, like the men who needed scientific knowledge to send tons of metal from this earth into outer space.

The acquisition of this wisdom in the life of Siddhartha, through his own diligent application, is what we call enlightenment.

It earned him the title of Buddha. The mission of the Buddha was to impart this knowledge to all mankind, irrespective of caste, creed or regional differences. He knew of no chosen people.

The profundity of the Buddha's teaching and its universal applicability got the message of Buddhism across Asia from east to west, well before the dawn of the Christian era.
In its early centuries, Buddhism was known on the western side in Afghanistan and Iran. On the east, travelling across Central Asia through the famous Silk Routes, it reached China by 50 A.D. Ere long it was well received in Korea and Japan. There was never a need to raise a sword or shed a drop of blood for its propagation.

The Buddha does not claim to be a saviour. He makes known to the world the way to liberation he discovered as a human. He is only a leader among men.

Each one of us has to develop to the full our own human potential, through a personal culture of moral goodness at a down-to-earth level of wholesome interpersonal relationships.

This category of moral goodness in Buddhism specifically includes respect for life of all grades, of every living thing, respect for the ownership of legitimately earned and acquired wealth and possessions, mutually respectful behaviour towards the genders, both male and female, honesty in word and deed in social transactions and the need to safeguard one's sanity at all times by keeping away from infatuation brought about through the use of alcohol and drugs.

Buddhism accepts and insists on these as vital ingredients, with no divine sanctions under any circumstances, for the harmonious growth of humans in the home and society as well as for friendly and respectful relations among nations and at international global levels.

Based on this, Buddhism advocates further personal psychic development called mind culture or bhavana. It is not a mere exercise in regulated breathing. The word meditation is vaguely used today for this.

But the process necessarily involves nurture, growth and development of man to a higher level of culture, which liberates him from his human bondage, through his clarified vision or wisdom to a new level of attitudes and aspirations.

This process of religious culture in Buddhism undoubtedly calls for a regular, but an equally well indispensable process of spiritual and religious discipline and restraint, a willing abandonment of the lower choices for the sake of the higher. This is what Buddhism stands for, any time, anywhere in any- body's hands.

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