Develop wisdom to overcome Avijjaa
By P. S. Mahawatte
Almost all religions in the world except Buddhism have as their foundation a creator God and an immortal soul. Let us briefly examine the core beliefs of a few of these religions.
The core belief in Hinduism is, after death one joins Paramathma. They are required to have utmost Faith in the Trio- Brahma - (Creator); Vishnu - (Ruler) and Shiva- (Destroyer) of the Universe. To them, Moksya could be achieved only after death. There are other gods such as Ganapathy and Skanda and by having faith in them, they can pray to enable them to find security and lead prosperous lives.
Buddhists, too, visit these Kovils and pray to these Gods seeking mundane help to overcome their various day to day problems. But unlike Hindus, the Buddhists perform meritorious acts and transfer the merit thus acquired, to Gods and seek their help. According to Buddhism Gods are unable to commit meritorious acts by themselves. The Buddha said that people pray out of fear and that fear is due to inability to understand things as they really are. This is due to Avijja - nescience or ignorance and the Buddha has taught his disciples how to develop the Wisdom needed to bring to an end this Avijja.
Christianity which came to be long after Hinduism also believes in an Almighty God as the creator of the universe. They are expected to have complete faith in the Trinity - Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. This appears to have some similarity to the Hindu trio Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Their Mokshya which they believe as joining their soul with the Creator, can be achieved only after death and that too, only with Gods love and repenting for their sins and prayer. They cannot achieve Mokshya by their own efforts.
Islam also requires absolute faith in Almighty Allah and is also based on Atma -Soul and to have utmost faith in the Creator God and to pray daily, so that after death they join their Creator - Mokshya.
The followers of the above religions hold fast to the belief that there is an immortal soul somewhere within them, which they want to continue to exist forever, by joining with their Creator.
Let us now listen to what the Buddha had to say on this subject. A Bhikku once asked the Buddha Ven. Sir, is there a case where one is tormented when something permanent within oneself is not found.
The Buddha said Yes, Bhikku there is. A man has the following view. The Universe is that Atman, I shall be that after death, permanent, abiding, everlasting, unchanging and I shall exist as such for eternity.
He hears the Thathagatha or a disciple of his, preaching the doctrine aiming at the complete destruction of all speculative views ... aiming at the extinction of Thirst Thanha, aiming at detachment, cessation Nirvana. Then that man thinks I will be annihilated, I will be destroyed, I will be no more. So he mourns, worries himself, laments, weeps, beating his breasts and become bewildered. Thus O Bhikku, there is a case where one is tormented when something permanent within oneself is not found (from What the Buddha taught by late Dr. Walpola Rahula thera).
Dhukka and Anathma
Buddha Dhamma is based on Anicca (impermenance), Dhukka (suffering) and Anathma (No self). What is impermanent must necessarily cause Dhukka and what is impermanent and Dhukka is Anathma - No Self. Buddha denies a creator and an immortal soul. We think that this body is our Soul. Let us see how this body which we call ME and MINE works. This wonderfully automated factory which works with clock work precision as no other, is what we call My Body or ME or I. But this I, Me or Mine has no control over the functioning of this factory, except to supply the raw materials i.e. food, water and the air, from which the factory produces the necessary energy for this body to exist. Medical science says that when food is consumed, the various gastric juices are secreted to break it down, dissolve and chemically split it into simpler compounds which can then be absorbed into the blood. The heart beats non stop through the automatic process of muscular contraction and relaxation.
It supplies uninterrupted oxygen to all body cells and returns carbon dioxide to the lungs. This factory has its own security system, where the white blood cells are the first to attack any infection or foreign invaders. At regular intervals we receive signals, demanding the discharge of the waste materials and we just have to obey. One single cell has multiplied to billions of cells which in turn have formed into tissues and organs which we call My Body. The outer skin has to be regularly washed and cleaned to get rid of the body odours. When the harmonious functioning of the cells, tissues and organs are disturbed we seek help from doctors to get the body back into working order. They are somewhat like the engineers in a manufacturing industry looking after the machinery and attending to running repairs.
All kinds of creams, sprays and lotions are available but these cannot stop the wrinkling process of the skin caused by ageing. No one can stop the decaying and the eventual death of this body - the factory. There are no spare parts for this machine and when they have worn out, the system will grind to a halt causing death of the system. From the unicellular amoeba to the multi- cellular MAN is a process. When this body dies it is quickly disposed of either by burning or burying as it starts decaying and rotting, emanating the most unbearable obnoxious odour.
This clearly shows that there cannot be a permanent I or ME or MINE that can control the activities of this body. It is a process which is impermanent- Anicca and therefore, Dhukka suffering.
Every living thing - man to the tiniest insect is frightened of death. It has been established that even a tree feels pain and an instrument has recorded the crying sounds of a plant emanate while it was being cut! A man suffering unbearable pain with an incurable illness, will want to live even though death may bring an end to his pain and suffering. A man may sacrifice his limbs or any part of the body as long as he can live!
Cling to Panchaskanda
Until we can develop the Sotapanna wisdom, we will continue to cling to this Panchaskanda, which we call our Personality. The Buddha during His 45 years of preaching the Dhamma, has explained in so many ways, that as long as we continue to Grasp (Upadana) Existence (Bhavo) there will be birth and suffering. We are grasping existence (Upadana pacchaya Bhavo) to satisfy the so called pleasures of the world of senses i.e. Visible Forms, Sound, Odour, Taste,, Tangible Things and Mind Objects such as Ideas or Thoughts. This is brought about by our Thirst (Thanha), which we want to quench by grasping (Upadana) Existence (Bhavo). As long as we grasp and are attached to this non existing ME or I, we cannot achieve Mokshya. This is how I understand Paticcasamuppada (Dependent origination).
Buddhism is profound and is for contemplation. A Buddhist can achieve Mokshya or Nibbana only by his own efforts and never by prayer. The Buddha is our Teacher. We have to study and get through the 'examinations' by our own efforts. We pay obeisance to the Buddha as our Teacher and not as our Saviour. We do not pray to Buddha to save us. We have to save ourselves and achieve Mokshya by our own efforts by following the path - The Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddha. That is why the practice of Buddhism is not easy. It requires determined effort (Virya) and Right Understanding (Samma Dhitti) Unlike other religions, Nirvana can be experienced in this world without having to wait till death.
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