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Life’s Highest Blessings: The Maha Mangala Sutta Print E-mail

Introduction

Superstitions and selfish desires weave a pattern of mind which interprets objective and subjective happenings in life as forebodings of personal weal and woe. Thus, if on waking up in the morning, or on the start of a trip, or in the course of a long journey, or at the beginning of an enterprise, or during a sacred ceremony, one meets with what is taken to be a sign of good fortune, such as a flower in bloom, a smiling face, good news or even something at first sight offensive but potentially considered good, some people feel assured of success in the subsequent course of events. An auto-suggestion like this might be of some use but to place complete reliance on it, neglecting the action necessary for fulfilment and success, would be too much of wishful thinking, bound to result in frustration or failure. So much importance is attached by some people to such omens of what is supposed to be auspicious that a sort of pseudo-science has grown up playing an undesirable role in the lives of those people by choking their initiative, by sustaining their fears, by suppressing self-confidence and by the promotion of irrational attitudes in them. In the time of the Buddha such a belief was as much in evidence as today, and as he was opposed to anything that fettered the healthy growth of the human mind he raised his voice against such superstitions. He denounced ‘luck’ or ‘fortune’ or ‘auspiciousness’ and proclaimed instead human behaviour, associations and activities as the real origins of ‘fortune’ or ‘misfortune’. Thus the emphasis was shifted from unhealthy fears and fettering superstitions to individual responsibility, rational thinking, social obligations and self-confidence. This had far-reaching effects in improving both human relationships and the efficiency of the human mind.

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The Discourse on the Snake Simile Print E-mail

Introduction

The discourse of the Buddha on the Snake Simile (Alagaddúpama Sutta) that is presented here, together with explanatory notes taken mostly from the commentarial literature, is the 22nd text in the “Collection of Discourses of Medium Length” (Majjhima Nikáya).

It is a text rich of contents and graced by many similes. At the very beginning there is a sequence of ten pithy similes on the perils of sense desires; then follows the simile on correctly or wrongly getting hold of a snake (from which our text derives its name); further, and still better known, the parable of the raft; and finally the simile of the vegetation of the Jeta Grove. The evocative power of these similes will strengthen the impact of the sutta’s message, in him who ponders on them deeply and repeatedly.

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Talks On Buddhist Meditation Print E-mail

Introduction

In late March death snatched from our midst, too soon, one of Sri Lanka’s most beloved Buddhist teachers, Godwin Samararatne. For close to twenty years, Godwin had been the resident meditation teacher at the Nilambe Meditation Centre near Kandy. He had also taught meditation within Kandy itself, at the Lewella and Visakha Meditation Centres (two affiliates of Nilambe), at the University of Peradeniya, at private homes, and at the Buddhist Publication Society. But Godwin did not belong to Sri Lanka alone. He belonged to the whole world, and he was loved and esteemed by people clear across the globe. Thousands of people from many lands came to Nilambe to practise meditation under his guidance, and they also invited him to their own countries to conduct meditation courses and retreats. Thus over the past two decades Godwin, in his own quiet way, had become an international Buddhist celebrity, constantly in demand in countries ranging from Europe to Hongkong and Taiwan. He was also a regular visitor to South Africa, where he conducted his last meditation retreat earlier this year.

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The Buddha's Teaching: In His Own Words Print E-mail

Introduction

What Is the Dhamma?

Narrator One. What is the “Dhamma” that was “well proclaimed” by the “Supreme Physician”? Is it an attempt to make a complete description of the world? Is it a metaphysical system?

First Voice. The Blessed One was once living at Sávatthì in Jeta’s Grove. A deity called Rohitassa came to him late in the night, paid homage to him and asked: “Lord, the world’s end where one neither is born nor ages nor dies nor passes away nor reappears: is it possible to know or see or reach that by travelling there?”

“Friend, that there is a world’s end where one neither is born nor ages nor dies nor passes away nor reappears, which is to be known or seen or reached by travelling there—that I do not say. Yet I do not say that there is ending of suffering without reaching the world’s end. Rather it is in this fathom-long carcase with its perceptions and its mind that I describe the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, and the way leading to the cessation of the world.

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The Foundation History of the Nuns’ Order Print E-mail

Introduction

This book proceeds in line with my earlier explorations of the begin-nings of the bodhisattva ideal and of the emergence of the Abhidharma in The Genesis of the Bodhisattva Ideal and The Dawn of Abhidharma in the same Hamburg Buddhist Studies series. Subsequent to these surveys of developments related to the Buddha and the Dharma, in what follows I employ the same historical-critical method of comparative study to examine a development in relation to the Saṃgha, namely the founding of the order of nuns.

The canonical accounts of this event are complex testimonies to the multivocality that pervades early Buddhist discourse on women in gen-eral and on nuns (bhikṣuṇīs/bhikkhunīs) in particular.1 My main interest in the next pages is to uncover the different voices that make them-selves heard in these accounts and try to explore how the main elements in the narrative of the Buddha’s founding of an order of nuns gradually came to build up the texts to which we now have access.

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