A Manual Of Buddhism Part 1

A Manual Of Buddhism -

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A Manual Of Buddhism.

By Venerable Narada Maha Thera.

About This Book

This is a fairly comprehensive book enabling the reader to appreciate and understand certain important finer aspects of Theravada Buddhism. This book would also serve as a reference, for both Teachers and Students alike, gain a good insight into the fundamentals of Buddhism.

The author, the late Venerable Narada Maha Thera was a well-known Buddhist Missioner. He isalsotheauthorofmanyotherBuddhist Publications. We are grateful to him for his kind permission, enabling; this reprint to be effected in Malaysia.

Special thanks are due to Ven. U. Nipuna Mr. Tan Teik Beng, Mr. Eddy Yu Chen Lim, Ms. Quah Pin Pin and Ms. Chong Hong Choo for their valuable a.s.sistanceinthe reproductionof this book.


Buddhist Missionary Society Buddhist Vihara, Jalan Berhala, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia September,1992

Chapter 1.

The Life Of The Buddha

The Birth.

On the full-moon day of May in the year 623 B.C. there was born, in the Lumbini Park at Kapilavatthu, on the borders of Nepal, a n.o.ble Prince of aristocratic Sakya clan. His father was King Suddhodana and his mother Queen Maha Maya. Seven days after the birth of the child, the mother died, and Maha Paj.a.pati Gotami, her younger sister, who was also married to King Suddhodana, became his foster mother.

Great was the rejoicing of the people over the birth of this ill.u.s.trious prince. A certain ascetic, named Asita, also known as Kaladevala, was particularly pleased to hear this happy news and, being a tutor of the King, visited the palace to see the royal baby. The overjoyed King brought the child, to pay him due reverence, but, to the surprise of all, his feet turned and planted themselves in the matted locks of the ascetic. Instantly the ascetic rose from his seat and foreseeing the child's future greatness, saluted him with joined hands. When he thus honored him, the royal father too saluted him in the same way.

The great ascetic at first smiled and then was sad. Questioned as to his mixed feelings, he replied that he smiled because the Prince would, eventually become a Buddha; and that he was sad because he, owing to his prior death and rebirth in a Formless Plane - Arupaloka, could not benefit by the superior wisdom of the Enlightened One.

The Naming Ceremony.

On the fifth day after the Prince's birth, he was named Siddhattha Gotama, which means 'wish fulfilled'. His family name was Gotama.' In accordance with the ancient custom, many learned Brahmins were invited to the palace for this naming ceremony. Amongst them were eight distinguished men. Examining the characteristics of the child, seven of them raised two fingers and gave a double interpretation, saying that he would either become a Universal Monarch or a Buddha.

But the youngest Kondanna, who excelled the others in knowledge, raised only one finger and firmly declared that he would definitely retire from the world and become a Buddha.

The Plowing Festival.

A very remarkable incident took place in his childhood. It was an unprecedented mental experience, which, in later life, during his search for Truth, served as a key to his Enlightenment. As an encouragement to agriculture the King arranged for a Plowing Festival. It was indeed a festive occasion for all, as both n.o.bles and commoners decked in gala dress partic.i.p.ated in the ceremony.

On the appointed day the King, accompanied by his courtiers, went to the field taking with him, the young Prince together with the nurses. Placing the child on a screened and canopied couch under the cool shade of a rose-apple tree to be watched by the nurses, the King took an active part in the Plowing Festival.

When the festival was at its climax, the nurses stole away from the Prince's presence to catch a glimpse of the wonderful spectacle. The thoughtful child, mature in intellect though young in age, seeing none by him, sat cross-legged, and intently concentrating on inhalation and exhalation, gained one-pointed-ness of the mind and developed the First Ecstasy - Jhana.

In the midst of their enjoyment the neglectful nurses suddenly remembered their duty, and when they saw the Prince absorbed in meditation, were struck with awe and immediately reported the matter to the King. He hastened to the scene and beholding the Prince in meditative posture, saluted him saying: "This, dear child is my second salutation."

Prince Siddhattha's Youth.

As a royal child Prince Siddhattha no doubt received a good education, although the books give no details about his schooling. Being a scion of the warrior race, he must have been specially trained in the art of warfare.

At the early age of sixteen, he married his beautiful cousin Princess Yasodhara who was of equal years. After his happy marriage, he led a luxurious life, blissfully unaware of the vicissitudes of life, outside the palace gates.

Of his luxurious life as a prince he states: -"I was delicate, excessively delicate. In my father's dwelling three lotus ponds were made purposely for me. Blue lotuses bloomed in one, red in another, and white in the third. I used no sandalwood that was not of Kasi. My turban, tunic, dress and cloak were all from Kasi. Night and day a white parasol was held over me so that I might not be touched by heat or cold, dust, leaves or dew."

"There were three palaces built for me - one for the cold season, one for the hot season, one for the rainy season. During the four rainy months, I lived in the palace for the rainy season, entertained by female musicians, without coming down from the palace. Just as in the houses of others, food from the husks of rice together with sour gruel is given to the slaves and workmen, even so, in my father's dwelling, food with rice and meat was given to the slaves and workmen."


With the march of time truth gradually dawned upon him. His contemplative nature and boundless compa.s.sion did not permit him to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of a royal household. He knew no woe, but he felt deep pity for sorrowing humanity. Amidst comfort arid prosperity he realized the universality of sorrow.

One glorious day, as he went out of the palace to see the world outside, he came into direct contact with the stark realities of life. Within the narrow confines of the palaces, he saw only the rosy side of life; but the dark side, the common lot of mankind was veiled from him. His observant eyes met the strange sight of a decrepit old man, a diseased person, a corpse, and a dignified hermit.

The first three sights convinced him of the inexorable nature of life and the universal sickness of humanity. The fourth signified the means to overcome the ills of life and attain calm and peace. Realizing the worthlessness of sensual pleasures highly prized by ordinary men, and the value of renunciation in which the wise seek delight, he decided to leave the world in search of Truth and Peace.

When this final decision was made after much deliberation, the seemingly happy news of the birth of a son was conveyed to him. Contrary to expectation he was not overjoyed but regarded the first and only offspring as an impediment. Normally an ordinary father would have welcomed the joyful tidings, but Prince Siddhattha, extra-ordinary father as he was, exclaimed, "An impediment - rahu, has been born; a fetter has arisen". The infant son was accordingly named Rahula by his grandfather.

The palace was no longer a congenial place for the destined Buddha. The time was ripe for him to depart.

He ordered his favorite charioteer Channa to saddle the horse Kanthaka, and went to the suite of apartments occupied by the Princess. Opening the door of the chamber, he stood on the threshold and cast his dispa.s.sionate glance on the wife and child who were fast asleep. His compa.s.sion for his two dear ones as well as for the whole world dominated him at the moment of parting. He was not worried about the future worldly comforts and happinesses of the mother and child as they had everything in abundance and were well protected.

Leaving all behind with a light heart, he stole away from the palace at midnight and rode into the dark on his horse, attended only by his loyal charioteer. As a penniless wanderer he went forth in search of Truth and Peace.

It was in his twenty-ninth year, the turning point of his career, that Prince Siddhattha made this historic journey. He journeyed far, and crossing the river Anoma, rested on the bank. Here he shaved his hair and beard and, handing over his garments and ornaments to Channa with instructions to return to the palace, adopted the simple yellow garb of an ascetic and led a life of voluntary poverty. The ascetic Siddhattha, who as a Prince had lived in the lap of luxury, became a penniless and homeless wanderer living on what little the charitable gave of their own accord.

He had no permanent abode. A shady tree or a lonely cave sheltered him day and night. Barefooted and bareheaded, he walked in the scorching sun and in the piercing cold. His humble dress was made of cast-off, worthless, coa.r.s.e rags.

With no possession to call his own except a bowl to collect his food and robes just sufficient to cover the body, he concentrated all his time and energies upon discovering the Truth.

The Search.

As a seeker after what is good (kim kusalagavesi) searching for the unsurpa.s.sed peaceful state most excellent, he approached Alara Kalama an ascetic of repute, and speedily learnt his doctrine and developed the seventh Arupa Jhana, the Realm of Nothingness, (Akincannayatana), an advanced stage of concentration.

The un-envious teacher, delighted to hear of the success of his distinguished pupil, honored him by placing him on a level with himself and admiringly said:- "Happy, friend, are we; yea, extremely happy, in that we look up to a respected ascetic like you! The doctrine, which I know, that also do you know; and the doctrine, which you know, that I know also. As I am, so are you; as you are, so am I. Come, friend, let both of us lead the company of ascetics."

The ascetic Gotama was not satisfied with mere mental concentration and an ordinary system, which did not lead to Nibbana. Dissatisfied with Kalama's system, he left him, and approached one Uddaka Ramaputta, who readily admitted him as a pupil.

Before long the intelligent ascetic Gotama mastered his doctrine and attained the final stage of mental concentration, The Realm of Neither Perception nor Non-perception - Neva sanna nasannayatana. This is the highest stage in worldly concentration when consciousness becomes so subtle and refined that it cannot be said that a consciousness either exists or not. Ancient sages could not proceed any further in mental development.

His teacher then honored the ascetic Gotama further by inviting him to take full charge of all disciples as their teacher. He said:- "Happy, friend, are we; yea, extremely happy in that we see such a venerable ascetic as you! The doctrine, which Rama knew, you know; the doctrine, which you know, Rama knew. As was Rama, so are you; as you are, so was Rama. Come, friend, henceforth you shall lead this company of ascetics."

Still he felt that his quest of life was not achieved. He was seeking Nibbana, the complete cessation of suffering. Dissatisfied with Ramapuna's system too, he departed. He found that n.o.body was competent to teach him what he sought as all were enmeshed in ignorance. He gave up seeking external help, for Truth and Peace are to be found within.

His Struggle For Enlightenment.

Meeting with disappointment but not discouraged, the ascetic Gotama, seeking for the incomparable state of Peace Supreme, wandered in the district of Magadha and arrived in due course at Uruvela, the market town of Senani. There he spied a lovely spot of ground, a charming forest grove, a flowing river with pleasant sandy fords, and near by was a village where he could beg for his food.

The place was congenial for his meditation. The atmosphere was peaceful, the surroundings were pleasant, the scenery charming. He resolved to settle down there alone to achieve his desired object.

Hearing of his renunciation Kondanna, the youngest Brahmin who predicted his future, and four sons of the other sages - Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama, and a.s.saji - also renounced the world, and joined his company.

In ancient India great importance was attached to rites, ceremonies, penances, and sacrifices. It was then a popular belief that no salvation could be gained unless one led a life of strict asceticism. Accordingly for six long years he made a super-human struggle practicing all forms of severe austerity, with the result that his delicate body was reduced almost to a skeleton. The more he tormented his body, the farther his goal receded from him.

Temptation Of Mara The Evil One.

His prolonged painful austerities proved utterly futile. They only resulted in the exhaustion of his energy. Though physically a superman, on account of his delicate nurture as a prince, he could not possibly stand the great strain. His graceful form faded almost beyond recognition. His golden-colored skin turned pale, blood dried up, sinews and muscles shriveled, and his eyes were sunk and blurred.

At this critical stage, Mara approached the ascetic Gotama and said:- "You are lean and deformed. Near to you is death. A thousand parts (of you belong) to death; to life (there remains) but one. Live, O good sir; life is better. Living you could perform merit. By leading a life of celibacy and making fire sacrifices, much merit could be acquired. What will you do with this striving? Hard is the path of striving, difficult and not easily accomplished."

He replied: "O Evil One, kinsman of the heedless! You have come here for your own sake. Even an iota of merit is of no avail. To them who are in need of merit it behooves you, Mara, to speak thus. Confidence - Saddha, self-control - Tapo, energy-Viriya, and wisdom - Panna are mine. Why do you question me, who am thus intent, about life?"

"Even the streams of rivers will this wind dry up. Why should not the blood of one who is thus striving dry up? When the blood dries up, the bile and phlegm also dry up. When my flesh wastes away, more and more does my mind get clarified. Still more do my mindfulness, wisdom, and concentration become firm."

"While I live thus, experiencing the utmost pain, my mind does not long for l.u.s.t. Behold the purity of a being!"

Sense-desires - Kama, is your first enemy, The second is called Aversion - Arati, The third is Hunger and Thirst- Khuppipasa, The fourth is called Craving- Tanha, The fifth is Sloth and Torpor- Thina-Middha, The sixth is called Fear- Bhaya, The seventh is Doubt - Vicikiccha, and The eighth is Detraction and Obstinacy- Makkha-Thambha, The ninth is Profit - Labha, Praise- Siloka, Honour- Sakkara, and that ill-gotten Fame-Yasa.

The tenth is the extolling of oneself and the contempt of others.

"This is your army, the opposing host of the Evil One. That army the coward does not over-come, but he who overcomes obtains happiness."

"This Munja do I display! What boots life in this world! Better for me is death in the battle than that one should live on, vanquished!". With these words the ascetic Gotama dismissed Mara and made a firm determination to attain his goal, Buddhahood.

The Middle Path.

The ascetic Gotama was now fully convinced, through personal experience, of the utter futility of self-mortification. Abandoning it forever, he adopted an independent course - the Majjhima Patipada - the Middle Path.

He recalled how when his father was engaged in plowing, he sat in the cool shade of the rose-apple tree, having attained to the first Ecstasy. He thought - well, this is the Path to Enlightenment!

He realized that Enlightenment could not be gained with an exhausted body. So he decided to take some food. The five ascetics who attended on him, disappointed at this unexpected change of method, deserted him and went to Isipatana, saying that "the ascetic Gotama had become indulgent, had ceased from striving, and had returned to a life of comfort."

At a crucial time when help would have been most welcome, his only companions left him, but he was not discouraged. After a substantial meal offered by Sujata, a generous lady, he made a firm resolve not to rise from his seat until he attained Buddhahood.

The Enlightenment.

One happy Vesak night, as he was seated under the famous Pippala tree at Buddha Gaya, with mind tranquillized and purified, in the first watch he developed that supernormal knowledge which enabled him to remember his past lives Pubbenivasa.n.u.ssati Nana - Reminiscence of Past Births. In the middle watch he developed the clairvoyant supernormal vision dealing with the death and rebirth of beings Cutupapata Nana - Perception of the Disappearing and Reappearing of Beings.

In the last watch of the night he developed the supernormal knowledge with regard to the destruction of pa.s.sions - Asavakkhaya Nana, and comprehending things as they truly are, attained Perfect Enlightenment - Samma Sambodhi.

Having in his 35th year attained Buddhahood, that supreme state of Perfection, He devoted the remainder of that precious life to serve humanity both by example and precept, dominated by no personal motive.

The Buddha was a human being. As a man He was born, as a man He lived, and as a man His life came to an end. Though human, He became an extraordinary man - Acchariya Ma.n.u.ssa. The Buddha laid stress on this fact and left no room for anyone to fall into the error of thinking that He was an immortal being. There is no deification in the case of the Buddha.

Nor does the Buddha claim to be an incarnation of Vishnu, nor does He call himself a "Savior" who freely saves others by His personal salvation. The Buddha exhorts His disciples to depend on themselves for their salvation, for both defilement and purity depend on oneself.

"You yourselves should make the exertion. The Tathagatas are only teachers," says the Buddha. The Buddhas point out the path, and it is left for us to follow that path to save ourselves.

"To depend on others for salvation is negative, but to depend on oneself is positive." Dependence on others means a surrender of one's effort. Furthermore, the Buddha does not claim a monopoly of Buddhahood, which as matter of fact is not the prerogative of any specially graced, chosen person. He reached the highest possible state of perfection any person could aspire to; and without the closed fist of a teacher, He revealed the only straight path that leads thereto.

According to the teachings of the Buddha anybody may aspire to that supreme state of perfection if he makes the necessary aspiring determination and necessary exertion. As a man He attained Buddhahood and proclaimed to the world the latent possibilities and the creative power of man. Instead of placing an unseen almighty G.o.d over man, and making him subservient to such a belief, He raised the worth of mankind.

It was He who taught that man could obtain his Deliverance from sorrow by his own exertion, without depending on a G.o.d and mediating priests or on sacrifices and prayers. It was He who taught the egocentric world the n.o.ble ideal of selfless service. It was He who revolted against the degrading caste system and taught the equality of mankind. He declared that the gates of success and prosperity were open to all, in every condition of life, high and low, saint and sinner, who would care to turn over a new leaf and aspire to Perfection.

Irrespective of caste, color or rank, he established for both deserving men and women a celibate order, which was "democratic in const.i.tution and communistic in distribution." He gave complete freedom of thought and wanted us to open our eyes to see things as they truly are. He comforted the bereaved by His consoling words.

He ministered to the sick that were deserted. He helped the poor who were neglected.

He enn.o.bled the lives of sinners and purified the corrupted lives of criminals. He encouraged the feeble, united the divided, enlightened the ignorant, clarified the mystic, guided the deluded, elevated the base, and dignified the n.o.ble. Rich and poor, saint and sinner, loved Him alike. Despotic and righteous kings, glorious and obscure princes and n.o.bles, generous and miserly millionaires, haughty and humble scholars, dest.i.tute paupers, downtrodden scavengers, wicked murderers, despised courtesans all benefited by His words of wisdom and compa.s.sion.

His n.o.ble example was a source of inspiration to all. His Message of Peace was hailed by all with indescribable joy, and was of eternal benefit to everyone who had the fortune to come under its benign influence.

Soon After The Enlightenment:

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