Tradition time-tested | Daily News

Tradition time-tested

Dhamma is simple and easy to comprehend. We can’t alter the past but have clear control over the future if one can proceed with skill and accuracy in the present instant. Dhamma is a very simple process, it takes place universally and every day in every individual, which anybody can comprehend as soon as it is exposed to the veil of mystery in which it was surrounded by philosophy, doctrines and rituals. Mindfulness, bare attention and awareness of the moment, parting the past behind and not brooding of the future will take the disciple on to the right path.

Navam Poya is of special significance due to some landmark incidents that took place on this day.

The first Buddhist Council, (Sanghayana) was held on Navam Poya Day. A “Brahmin of Magadha who resembled the Buddha in physical appearance, entered the Buddhist Order. After the passing away of the Buddha, he and senior Arhant, Mahakassapa Thera [who became an Arahant after associating with the Buddha for only eight days,] presided over the first Buddhist Council. The appointment of the two chief disciples, [Aggarasavakas] Sariputta and Moggallana Theras took place on Navam Poya Day. Sariputta Thera was named “Darmasenadhipati”, an esteemed position, while Moggallana Thera as the “Dharma Purohita”.

While initially, the Buddha himself ordained the aspirants of asceticism, he introduced the principle of delegation as the Sangha community grew in numbers, and called for the members of the Sangha to ordain the candidates. The first congregation was held at Veluvanaramaya, in Rajagaha, on Navam full moon Day. Also on Navam Full Moon Day, Ven Sariputta attained Arahantship by listening to “Vedana Pariggaha Sutta” explained by the Buddha to Dighanaka, Buddha delivered a sermon on Ovada Prathimoksha also on a Navam Poya Day, to the Chief disciples Moggallana and Sariputta Theras.

Ordinary world affairs

Having established three such councils held at different times, Buddhism in India decayed and never survived as a living tradition; that is why they do not have this tradition significantly practised there now, though it is not totally absent. The Buddhist traditions were invented to explore ethical and spiritual rather than ordinary world affairs, and that’s why they did not develop in the style of the western tradition. It completely vanished gradually in India, though; we in Sri Lanka still stick to the spirit of this critical tradition. Even an average Buddhist do not hesitate to question and even disapprove of the message of the Nayake priest or his decision and the sermonizing. Erudite bhikkhus boldly condemn many unacceptable practices of Buddhism, and both the learned and the ordinary people do freely condemn some of the modern temple observances. For the conservation of stability and advancement of the society, and even in a family, proper practice is very essential. But a fixed tradition, at the same time, would become evil, like decomposition that prevent growth and will little by little demolish a nation.

We can avoid such decay, and at the same time avert the disturbing consequences if we can restore the critical theory of tradition and convention presented to us by Buddhism. This we see in Europe, as a result of the complete rejection of religious institutions by the intellectuals.

Understanding the truth, necessitates that we take nothing for granted; that we acknowledge nothing on faith or belief. Question about ourselves, and practice with diligence and truthfulness. Challenge our most basic viewpoints and convictions, even those we may have about the Dhamma itself; a spirit of questioning, a spirit of critical examination— that is what Buddha emphasized in the Kalama sutra.

Vegetarians are wired differently from ‘animal eaters’ and are much more moved by distress in any form. Daniel Rowes of ‘Psychology Today’ wrote about a recent study that shows that compassion is what actually separates vegetarians and meat-eaters. It was based on the observation that vegetarians and vegans tend to base their conclusions to avoid animal products on ethical grounds. There was another study done in 2008 that observed 54 per cent of American vegetarians cited animal welfare as the main reason they gave up ting animals. The Italian researchers wanted to determine if the empathy vegetarians and vegans extend towards animals applied to humans as well. In short, was knowledge and kindness part of the man’s genetic structure or was it simply an interest.

Empathy-related brain areas

To test this, 20 meat-eaters, 19 vegetarians and 21 vegans were placed in an MRI machine, while researchers looked at the ‘activation’ of different brain areas as subjects view a series of pictures. Some of the pictures were of natural landscapes, while others showed scenes of torture, mutilation, death, and so on involving both animals and humans. Researchers monitored the neurological reactions to the pictures. The main finding of this study is that, compared to meat-eaters, vegetarians show higher activation of empathy-related brain areas when observing scenes of suffering; whether it be animal or human suffering.

According to psychologists learning to be less empathic towards animals is considered a step towards maturity in our society. And that results in the decrease of empathy towards fellow humans as well. ‘Scientific American’ recently wrote about a study of college students showing that today’s young people are 40 per cent less empathetic than college kids 30 years ago.

Fortunately, vegetarians cannot, because of their different brain wiring, learn to drop compassion from their minds. It’s important to highlight that the Italian study shows vegetarians to be more empathic to both animals and humans because many in the animal welfare community have been accused of caring more about animals than people. The link between empathy for animals and empathy for humans should come as no surprise. But that is not the only way in which vegetarians and meat-eaters are different. The Daily Telegraph reports that Mensa an elite society for people with high IQ has more than its share of vegetarians. While Australia has only 400,000 vegetarians, the Australian Mensa has so many that it has started a monthly magazine called ‘Vegetarian Life’ for its members.

Just as scientists have seen that meditation lights up parts of the brain that have been dark before becoming vegetarian would open up pathways of thought that have been unused before. As the body becomes cleaner and more in tune with its real nature, the brain becomes sharper and is easier to use.

Modern psychoanalysts

Dhamma is simple and easy to comprehend. We can’t alter the past but have clear control over the future if one can proceed with skill and accuracy in the present instant. Dhamma is a very simple process, it takes place universally and every day in every individual, which anybody can comprehend as soon as it is exposed to the veil of mystery in which it was surrounded by philosophy, doctrines and rituals. Mindfulness, bare attention and awareness of the moment, parting the past behind and not brooding of the future will take the disciple on to the right path. Prof. Rhys Davis once stated that he scrutinised every one of the great religions and in none of them did he discover anything to outshine, in exquisiteness and depth, the teachings of the Buddha, and that he is delighted to shape his life according to the principles. The father of modern science, Albert Einstein, declared that he is not a religious being, but if he were one he would be a follower of the Buddha.

One of the foremost and significant teachings of Buddha is Mindfulness. It has filtered into an established tradition that even modern psychoanalysts have acknowledged. The Buddha declared that it was vital to cultivate the right mindfulness in all facets of life to examine things as they are. He encouraged intense contemplation and awareness of all things through the four fundamentals of mindfulness: they are, Contemplation of the body, of feeling, of states of mind and phenomena. Mindfulness is about accepting the moment with openness and imagination in every experience. Through right mindfulness, one can liberate oneself from passions.

If you are paying attention now with all your being, with your mind, with your brain, with your nerves, with all your energy; listening, without comparing, not opposing, not accepting, but really with total awareness: then there is no being who is observing, who is listening? See an image devoid of the interference of thought. It is the observer who produces fear, the observer is the centre of thought, it is the ‘Me’, the ‘I’, the ‘Self’, the Ego; the observer is the sensor.


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