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  • [孟加拉]Deva Priya Barua :Good Faith And Behavior–buddhist Forum On Buddhist Layman

    Deva Priya Barua

     

      Buddhism is not a religion of faith; it is a religion based on morality, concentration and wisdom. It commands respect from the world because it allows reasoning for wider knowledge while it dispels blind faith.

      Though the Buddha directly taught that acceptance should be based on understanding, there are components of the Buddha’s teachings that require faith until an understanding can be gained. However, the purpose of Buddhist practice itself is to gain a perfect understanding and view of the world as it is, inherently, implies that what appear to be rooted in faith will eventually be revealed through experiential and knowledged-based proof if the Buddhist Path is followed.

      The life of the Buddhist layman is, or should be, regulated by the five precepts. These constitute the minimal requirements for ethical day-to-day living, to be of benefit both to the individual and to the community. All efforts towards higher spiritual achievement must begin with virtue (SILA), for without virtue mental concentration (Samadhi) and wisdom (Panna) are no attainable. And without the self-discipline that SILA inculcates, civilised life is not possible.

      Aside from these obvious truths, the five principles of moral conduct were laid down by the Buddha, the supreme physician, for another reason also. They are to serve as a prophylactic against unwholesome Karma and the misery that result from it; they are the basic rules of mental and spiritual hygiene.

      Thus spoke the Buddha’s :

      ‘A lay follower (UPASIKA) who has five qualities is a jewel of a lay-follower, is like a lily, like a lotus. What are these five qualities? He has faith; he is virtuous; he is not superstitious; he believes in action (Kamma) & not in luck or omen; he does not seek outside (of the order) for those worthy of support and does not attend there first.’

      - AN5.175

      Ten Virtues of the Lay-follower :

      These ten, great king, are the virtues of the lay-followers :

      01. He shares the joys and sorrows of the order.

      02. He places the Dhamma first;

      03. He enjoys giving according to his ability.

      04. If he sees decline in the Dispensation of the Teaching of the Buddha, he strives for its strong growth;

      05. He has right view, disregarding belief in superstitious and omen, he will not accept any other teacher, not even for the sake of his life;

      06. He guards his deeds and words;

      07. He loves and cherishes peace and concord.

      08. He is not envious or jeaulous;

      09. He does not live a Buddhistic life by way of deception or hyprocrisy;

      10. He has gone for refuge to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.

      - MILANDAPANHA. CH. IV

      Buddhism should not be thought to be a teaching for monks only, as it is sometimes wrongly conceived. In large number of His discourse, the Buddha has given practical guidance for the lay life and sound advice to cope with life’s difficulties. Many of our problems and difficulties for which some people blame circumstances and chance, are, if correctly viewed, the result of ignorance or negligence. They could be well avoided or overcome by knowledge & diligence, yet of course, worldly happiness and security never perfect; they are always a matter of degree, for in the fleeting there is nothing truly firm.

      Some Buddhists may think that going to the temple and offering flowers at the feet of the image of Buddha, lighting a few oil lamps and burning some joss-sticks or incense in the temple means that is Buddhism. They may believe that their religious duties have thus been fulfilled. But according to the teaching of the Buddha, one should not be satisfied with such acts or imaging that they are sufficient for one to be called a Buddhist.

      By proclaiming His noble teachings, the Buddha did not wish to have vast of followers who would simply be venerating a dignified image of Him. What he wanted was to see a civilized, cultured and peaceful society of intelligent people striving for the attainment of Nibbana – Cessation of Universal Suffering.

      Unfortunately, some of us forget these fundamental principles of our great heritage. It is very sad indeed that we thus fall into the group of those who merely follow rites and rituals. It should be clearly understood and remembered that we pay homage to the Buddha only as a mark of respect and gratitude to our Path-finder & teacher, whom we regard as the true “Model of Perfection”. It was he who thought out & preached the way of a noble & happy life here (in this world) & the attainment of eternal happiness in this life as well as here after. It was he also who found the way to the final & noble goal of Nibbana, which is the state of complete cessation, which is the state of complete cessation of suffering – the only eternal form of deliverance.

      No matter how much or how often we may worship at the feet of the Buddha, it is not there only way for us to lead a Buddhist way of life. In order to be a true Buddhist, one must follow strictly the basic principles of the Buddha’s teaching. Those who are acquainted with Buddhist Literature Vouchsafe to the fact that Buddhism maintains many noble principles. For this reason, many non-Buddhist highly praise Buddhism as a Righteous way of life.

      Buddhism leads mankind to peace, to the development of good morals reasoning & logical thinking. Moreover, Buddhist doctrine is the most authoritative source from which the correct answers to all questions that arise in a man’s mind can be obtained. It is the only doctrine in which the realities of the nature of life have been explained in plain & undisguised manner. Without exaggeration it may be asserted that as far as the spiritual upliftment of mankind is concerned, Buddhism remain unchallenged.

      In many a discourse, the Buddha teaches how man should lead noble lives. Sutras like Sigalabada, Mangala, Parabhava, Vasala & Vyagghapajja are a few examples.

      This article – “Good faith and Behavior on Buddhist Layman” is an attempt to bring home to the layman some ideas about the Buddhist way of life. If they determine to do this they will be setting a good example to the rest of the world, & assisting them to turn away from the moral deterioration that has set in.

      Buddhism is the religion of the majority of the inhabitants of Asia. There are more than 500,000,000 Buddhists in the world which is nearly one quarter of the World’s total population.

      Many Buddhists are not aware of all the good teaching of their Master. If one is to follow Buddhism properly and wishes to be called a good Buddhist, one must study the life & teaching of the Buddha.

      All the difficult problems of life will be understood more easily if one learns Buddhism. The Buddha’s approach to this subject was straight & scientific – hence easy to understand.

      The Buddha did not keep his knowledge to himself & order his followers simply to listen to his teachings. He did not promise to take any one to heaven simply because they were his followers. If he had done so it would have been a false promise because no one can take another to heaven or hell.

      One can gain admission into heaven or avoid hell by one’s own actions. An outsider can only help by giving guidance as to the path to follow.

      Therefore the Buddha advised His disciples to follow His teachings and His pure examples. He proved to them what He preached was true, for they will be able to actually enjoy the good results of their meritorious deeds. This fact which was proved then holds good even today & will hold good in the future too.

      The Buddha practised loving kindness towards all beings-gods, men, animals and spirit and this is called the Universal Love. If the Buddha wanted to find happiness for himself alone, he could have done so long before the time He actually attained the eternal happiness of Nibbana. He could have attained that with much less difficulty also. What He thought was that entering into that eternal happiness along while so many were suffering would be like an unkind mother enjoying a delicacy alone while her hungry children were looking on.

      So, the Buddha, out of compassion for all living beings, plunged himself into the suffering Samsara (Cycle of birth & death) and look the longer & more hazardous route to reach the further shore. He had to live many lives and the number of lives that He spent in His self imposed “training course” is incalculable.

      The Buddha’s compassion & love towards all living being was so great that He undertook the suffering of Samsara without the least hesitation. When we read the Buddhist scriptures, we learn many of these facts. It is only with firm determination, a great deal of energy and high wisdom that one could continue practising good thought words and deeds for so long. By such deligent practice any one may become a Buddha for it is not the monopoly of a particular person or being.

      Every one of us has a grain of the Buddha spirit within us. It will not come into full bloom if we forget all about it. We should take the necessary steps to cultivate that spirit until that is brought to perfection and crowned with Buddhahood. Now, how are we going to make this seed of Buddhahood grow into a big & strong tree and bear the fruit of Buddhahood? Just as other plants needs to be well looked after, watered and fertilised with more and more good deeds in his life & lives hereafter. Then there will be a day that we will succeed gloriously in our efforts.

      For our guidance in the upward journey, we should make use of the knowledge that has been given to us by Gautam Buddha who lived only 25 centuries age & which has come down to us through the several generation of His faithful & devoted disciples. The Path shown by the Buddha is quite free from danger & is beneficial to all who treat in it as well as to those who stand by it.

      No one can hope to reach the goal in one life, however, long that life may be. So it is necessary that one should accumulate merits in early life in order to reach final perfection. Great Oceans are only drop of water which have collected together. Buddhahood is a great collection of everything that is good. In other words, it is the absence of everything evil.

      The English Philosopher Hobbes saw man as a being motivated in all actions by the desire for self-gratification; even the exercise of charity He attributed to this self-regarding urge. Repulsive through this view may appear at first sight, it has never been seriously challenged. All religious tacitly acknowledge it when they hold out hope of rewards for virtue & the Buddha expressly declared that a man’s first duty is towards himself :

      “Let one not neglect one’s own good for that of others, however great it may be. One should pursue one’s own good, knowing it well”.

      - Dhammapada, 166.

      In Buddhism, one’s own good coincides the ultimate good of attaining the settles & therefore desireless state. Those who mistakenly see their own “good” in the gratification of their desires at the expenses of others are bala, fools in the realm of morality, and andhabala, mentally blind fools in respect to their own spiritual welfare.

      In the Buddha’s discourse the fool always signifies one who is immoral; that is to say, impure in thought, word & deed. “That man in this very world destroys his own roots. There is no mistaking the powerful emphasis the Buddha laid on the admonition : here in this very world, the fool destroys himself by his misdeeds.

      Another fact that renders the Buddhist precepts unique is that they do not make impossible psychological demands. Faith cannot be produced to order, yet many religious commandments literally order the devotee to have faith in what cannot be proved. They also command him to love his fellow-men. Like faith, love cannot be conjured up by command, & Buddhism recognises this truth. Metta, or universal benevolence, has to be cultivated systematically; it is no more possible to produce it instantly by willing than it is to grow a new limb. A psychological reorientation away from “SELF” is necessary before the perfection of loving kindness, which is one of the “BRAHMA-VIHARA”, can be realised.

      As exercises in moral restraints, the Five Precepts are necessarily expressed in negative form. The intention is to tell the devotee what he should avoid doing. They are concerned with outward behavior while the exercises in mental development (bhavana) are concerned with the development of subjective states tending to the attainment of insight wisdom. While SILA (Virtue) is essential to the practice of bhavana, bhavana itself fortifies SILA; the two are mutually – supporting, & grow side by side. It is as this growth take place that the positive side of the precepts asserts itself. From the negative vow to refrain from taking life there emerges the positive and active principle of benevolence towards all santient beings. In time it comes impossible to break any of the precepts because the will to do so has perished. It fades out from inanition, having no ego-craving on which to subsists.

      The follower of the Buddha is invited to make a choice between the “good” of expediency which often turns out to be an ethical CUL-DE-SAC (Blind Alley), & the highest moral and spiritual good, which is certain and understanding in its results. The house holder who has property and worldly interest to guard, & who owes a duty to society & its laws in return for the protection it affords him may not always find it possible to observe the first precepts. He is in that position because his desire for possession & family ties has placed him in it. Having made that particular choice he has also chosen to risk whatever consequences may come of it. The dilemmas that confront him at every turn are of his own making. So long as he remains in that position the only course he can adopt is to minimise as far as possible the need to perform unwholesome actions. There are many ways in which he can do this, the first being to ensure that he engages only in undertakings that do not cause moral confusion and supports himself by work of a pure and blameless character. This comes under Right livelihood in the Noble Eight fold Path. If this is not sufficient & he aims at the highest moral perfection, he may renounce all worldly responsibilities & connections & enter the Sangha. There he is free to pursue the highest good, unfettered by the demands of mundane life. It was for this purpose that the Buddhist Sangha was established, & so long as it remains thou is refuge for those who wish to shun evil in all its aspects. The standards of perfection in Buddhist ethics do not make them impossible as some have believed. It is an ideal that can be actualised.

      Goethe Wisely said, ‘A man is really alive only when he delights in the goodwill of others’. An ancient motto, ‘Manners Maketh a man’ still holds good even to this day. We are living in an ever-changing world. We should not cling blindly to the traditions, customs, behaviors, rites and rituals practised by our forefathers or ancestors who adopted these practices according to faiths and conditions prevalent during their time. Some customs or traditions handed down by our ancestors may be good, while others may be less useful. We should consider with an open mind whether these practices are congenial and relevant to the modern world.

      Every man or woman who observes the five precepts and conscientiously tries to follow the Noble Eight fold Path, makes it easier to someone else to do the same. One who works for his own highest good confers blessings on all mankind. Buddhists would certainly agree with Shakespeare’s view of the human paradox :

      What a piece of work is man

      how noble in reason,

      how infinite in faculties in form

      and moving;

      how express and admirable in action,

      how like an angel in apprehension,

      how like a god : the beauty of the world,

      the paragon of animals :

      and get to me what is the quintessence

      of dust?

       Hamlet 2:2

      As the Blessed one teaches with incomparable beauty :

      ‘Sabba papassa akaranam,

      Kusalassa Upasampada

      Sachitta pariyodapanam:

      etam Buddhanu sasanam.’

       - DHAMMAPADA : 183

      To avoid evil,

      To do good,

      To purity the mind,

      This is the advice of all the Buddhas.

      This, in brief & simple outline, is the Teachings of the Lord Buddha as it affects to the Buddhist Lay follower’s life. It is at once an ideal and a method. As an ideal, it aims at the evolution of a perfect Man-synonymous with the attainment of Nibbana – in this very life itself, by one’s own efforts. As a method, it teaches us that the ideal can become real only by the systematic practice & development of the Noble Eight fold Path, at the two levels – that of the monks & that of the Layman. Each develops according to his ability & each according to his needs, whereby man, using the instrument of mind, by his own endeavor, comes to know himself, train himself, & free himself from the thralldom of base desire, the blindness of hate, & the mists of a delusive self, to win the highest of all freedoms – freedom from error and ignorance.

      In this Noble teaching, there is no intellectual error, based as it is on reason &, in keeping with the finding of science, no normal blindness; for its ethics are truly lofty, with a national basis : namely, evolution in terms of Kamma.

      Buddhist Layman, therefore, having soughts the refuge of the Buddha, the Dhamma, & the Sangha, is sure that under these three refuges, he is secure, free from danger, fear and defilements that lead to evil destiny. With the Lord Buddha as the guiding ideal, the Dhamma as the raft that enables him to cross the ocean of Samsara and the Sangha as the rice field within which to sow for a rich harvest, he leads a righteous life. He performs all his actions heedfully and paying due regard to the cosmic law of life – Kamma Action.

      That Buddhism is eminently practicable is clearly shown by the example of the great Indian Emperor Asoka, when Buddhism became the shaping ideal of the state, and Buddhist ideas and ideals were used to build a just and righteous society. Thus ushering in a period of great prosperity; material, moral, & spiritual. It is the only true solution for the manifold problems in the modern world. To this we must now turn.

      Let us extend our wish for the welfare of all beings with the following statement :

      ‘Sabbe satta avera anigha abyapajjha hontu,

      suki attanam pariharantu.’

      May all beings be free from enmity, affliction and anxiety, and may they live happily.

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      WRITER : DEVA PRIYA BARUA, Joint Secretary General, Bangladesh Bouddha Kristi Prachar Sangha, Dhaka is an outstanding world Buddhist Leader, Renowned Organizer, Ex- Vice President of The World  Fellowship of Buddhist-Youth, who is working for propagation of Humanistic Buddhism since last 35 years. He is indebted to PROF. KANAK BARAN BARUA who is also an eminent Educationist and Prominent Writer on Buddhism, Ex-Head, Department of Biology, Chakaria University College, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and Executive Member, Central Committee of Bangladesh Boudha Kristi Prachar Sangha, Dhaka, Bangladesh in preparing this Article.

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