Friday, September 30, 2011

Way to the happy life: TWO KINDS OF LANGUAGE

Where is heaven. This article has the answer. TWO KINDS OF LANGUAGE: Everyday Language & Dhamma language (3) Lecture at Suan Mok...

Way to the happy life: TWO KINDS OF LANGUAGE

Where is heaven. This article has the answer. TWO KINDS OF LANGUAGE: Everyday Language & Dhamma language (3) Lecture at Suan Mok...

Way to the happy life: TWO KINDS OF LANGUAGE

Where is heaven. This article has the answer. TWO KINDS OF LANGUAGE: Everyday Language & Dhamma language (3) Lecture at Suan Mok...


Where is heaven. This article has the answer.


Everyday Language & Dhamma language

Lecture at Suan Mokkhabalarama, Chaiya
8 October 1966
Translated by Roderick Bucknell

          Now we come closer to home, to the word "person". We think nothing of using the word "person, person, person" all the time. Everyone is a person. But we ought to be careful here, because the word "person" has two different meanings. In everyday language, "person" refers to a creature with a body shaped like what they call a "person" or human being.
          But in Dhamma language, the word "person" refers to certain special qualities implied in the word "human" - which means "possessing a lofty mind" or "high minded" - certain high mental qualities. This is not so difficult to understand. If someone criticizes a friend saying, "You're not a person!" what does he mean? The one criticized has a human body just as does the one criticizing. Why, then, is the first accused of not being a person? The point is that he lacks the special qualities implied in the word "human". Lacking these , he is accused of not being a person. Thus, the word "person" has two different meanings. In everyday language, it refers to a creature of human form; in Dhamma language, it refers to the higher mental or spiritual qualities implied in the word "human".

          Now we consider the word "God". In everyday language, "God" refers to a celestial being with various creative powers. This is the God of everyday language. The "God" of Dhamma language is rather different. It is a profound and hidden power, which is neither human being, nor celestial being, nor any other kind of being. It has no individuality or self, and it is impersonal. It is natural and intangible. It is what we call the Law of Nature, for this Law is responsible for creation and for the coming into existence of all things. Natural Law governs all things. Natural Law has power over all things. Hence in Dhamma language, the word "God" means, among other things, the Law of Nature, what Buddhists call Dhamma. In the Pali language, the Law of Nature was referred to simply as "Dhamma". Dhamma, just that one single word, implies all of the Law of Nature. So Dhamma is the Buddhist God.

          Now let us direct our gaze downwards. Let us look at the "four woeful states" (apaya). The woeful states are the nether worlds. Normally four of them are recognized; hell (naraka), the realm of the beasts (tiracchana), the realm of the hungry ghosts (peta), and the realm of the frightened ghosts (asura or asurakaya). These four as a group are called the "four woeful states." They are vividly depicted in temple murals. Hell, the beasts, the hungry ghosts, and the asuras are all depicted according to traditional beliefs, which means all four are thought to apply only after death. In other words, the four woeful states as understood in everyday language are interpreted materialistically. The denizens of hell, the beasts, and so on are thought of as actual lowly, "flesh and blood" creatures.
         In everyday language, hell is a region under the earth. It is ruled over by the god of death, who carries off people and subjects them to all sorts of punishments. It is a place where one may go after death. Contrast this with hell as understood in Dhamma language. Here hell is anxiety, anxiety which burns us just like a fire. Whenever anxiety afflicts us, burning us up like a fire, then we are in hell, the hell of Dhamma language. Anyone who roasts himself with anxiety, just as he might burn himself with fire, is said to fall into hell in that same moment. And just as anxiety is of various kinds, so we recognize various kinds of hells corresponding to them.
Now to the realm of beasts (tiracchana). Birth as a beast means in everyday language actual physical birth as a pig, a dog, or some other actual animal. Rebirth after death as some kind of lower animal is the everyday meaning of rebirth into the realm of the beasts. In Dhamma language, it has a different meaning. When one is stupid, just like a dumb animal, then at that moment one is born into the realm of beasts. It happens right here and now. One may be born as a beast many times over in a single day. So in Dhamma language, birth as a beast means stupidity.
          The term "hungry ghost" (peta) in everyday language refers to a creature supposed to have a tiny mouth and an enormous belly. It can never manage to eat enough and so is chronically hungry. This is another possible form in which we may be reborn after death. These are the hungry ghosts of everyday language. The hungry ghosts of Dhamma language are purely mental states. Ambition based on craving, worry based on craving - to be afflicted with these is to be born a hungry ghost. These symptoms are just like those that result from having a mouth the size of a needle's eye and a belly the size of a mountain. Anyone suffering from an intense craving, a pathological thirst, anyone who worries and frets excessively, a pathological thirst, anyone who worries and frets excessively, has the same symptoms as a hungry ghost. Such a person can be said to have been reborn a hungry ghost right here and now. It is not something that happens only after death.
          Now to the asura or frightened ghosts. In everyday language, an asura is a kind of invisible being. It goes around haunting and spooking, but is too afraid to show itself. In Dhamma language, the word "asura" refers to fear in the mind of a human being. To be reborn as an asura, it is not necessary for the body to die. Whenever one is afraid, one is simultaneously reborn an asura. To be afraid without good reason, to be excessively fearful, to be superstitiously afraid of certain harmless creatures - this is what it is to be reborn as an asura. Some people are afraid of doing good. Some are afraid that if they attain nibbana, life will lose all its flavour and be unbearably dull. Some people do have this kind of fear of nibbana. To be afflicted with unjustified fear of this kind is to be reborn as an asura right here and now.
          These are the four woeful states as understood in Dhamma language. they rather different from the woeful states of everyday language. Now there is a point worth thinking about in connection with this. If we don't fall into the woeful states of Dhamma language, then we are sure not to fall into the woeful states of everyday language. For instance, if we avoid making the mistakes that lead to affliction with anxiety, then we avoid falling into hell in this life. At the same time, we need have no fear of falling into hell in some later lifetime after death. Again, if we avoid being stupid like the beasts, ravenous like the hungry ghosts, and frightened like the asura, then we are free of the kinds of unskillful attitudes that might cause us to be reborn after death as beasts, hungry ghosts, or asura.
          So it behoves us to interest ourselves only in these woeful states that we are in danger of experiencing right here and now. The kind that we may experience after death can be put aside. There is no need for us to concern ourselves with them. If we avoid right here and now the hungry ghosts and other woeful states as understood in Dhamma language, then no matter how we die, we are certain not to fall into the woeful states of everyday language. If we live and practice properly, we avoid falling into the woeful states here and now, and we are certain not to fall into the woeful states that are supposed to follow death.
          Most people recognize that heaven and hell are simply states of mind. Why, then, are they so foolish as to misunderstand the meaning of the four woeful states, which are so much a part of life? True enough, the heaven and hell of everyday language are external realms - though don't ask me where - and they are attained after death; but the heaven and hell of Dhamma language are to be found in the mind and may occur at any time, depending on one's mental make-up. This is how the woeful states of Dhamma language differ from those of everyday language.

"Heaven" in everyday language means some wonderful, highly attractive, celestial realm up above. Spend a certain amount of money in merit making and you're entitled to one mansion in heaven, where there are angels by the hundreds.  In Dhamma language, however, "heaven" refers first of all to infatuating sensual bliss of the highest order. This is the lower heaven, the heaven of sensuality. Higher up is the heaven called the Brahmaloka, where there are no objects of sensuality. It is a state of mental well-being that results from the absence of any disturbing sensual object. It is as if a certain person with a hunger for sense objects had indulged himself until becoming thoroughly fed up with all sense objects. Then he would want only to remain quite empty, still, untouched. This is the state of freedom from sensuality, the condition of the Brahma gods in the Brahmaloka. The ordinary heavens are full up with sensuality, the highest of them, the Paranimmitavasavatti heaven, being completely full of sensuality. The heavens of the Brahmaloka, however, are devoid of disturbance from sensuality, though the "self", the "I" still persists.

          Now let us discuss the word "ambrosia," the elixir of immortality. In everyday language, ambrosia is a kind of liquor that celestial being imbibe to make themselves invulnerable before going out again to slaughter and cause general havoc. This is the ambrosia of everyday language. The ambrosia of Dhamma language is Dhamma at its highest, the truth of not-self(anatta) or emptiness (sunnata). This highest Dhamma, the truth of not-self or emptiness, makes a person immortal because it brings freedom from the "self" idea. When there is no "self", how can there be death? So in Dhamma language, the elixir of life is the truth of not-self or emptiness. As for the liquor which is traditionally supposed to confer eternal life on whoever drinks it, that is the ambrosia of everyday language, the language of foolish people, the language of people who have not perceived or penetrated to the truth.

         A moment ago we mentioned the word "emptiness" (sunnata). Let us now have a closer look at it. Sunnata is a Pali word. Sunna means "void" or "empty," and "-ta" is the equivalent of "-ness". Sunnata is emptiness or voidness. In the everyday language of people who have not seen or penetrated to the truth, emptiness means simply the absence of any content whatsoever, a physical void, a vacuum, a useless nothingness. This is emptiness in everyday language. Emptiness or sunnata in Dhamma language is quite different. Here everything of every kind and variety may be present in any quantity - everything, that is, with the single exception of the ideas of "me" and "mine". Everything may be present, everything of every sort and kind you can think of, the entire lot of both physical and mental phenomena, with just this one exception - there is no idea of "me" and "mine". No "I," no "my," - that is emptiness as it is understood in Dhamma language, the language of the Buddha.
         The world is empty. Empty of what? Empty of self and anything belonging to self. With this single exception, everything may be present, as long as nothing is regarded as "me" or "mine". This is the emptiness of Dhamma language. When the Buddha spoke of emptiness, he was speaking Dhamma language. Foolish people understand this as everyday language and take it that there is nothing i the world at all, just a vacuum! If the word "emptiness" is misinterpreted like this in term of everyday language, the Buddha's teaching of emptiness becomes meaningless. Those foolish people come out with many strange assertions that have nothing whatever to do with emptiness as taught by the Buddha.
          I hope you will take an interest in this and bear it well in mind. This word "empty" applied to physical things naturally means absence of any content, but in the metaphysical context, it means that though every sort of thing may be present, there is utter absence of "I-ness" and "my-ness." In the physical world, the mental world, or anywhere at all, there is no such thing as "me" or "mine". The conditions of "I-ness" and "my-ness" just do not exist. They are unreal, mere illusions, hence the world is described as empty. It is not that the world is devoid of all content. Everything is there, and it can be made use of with discernment. Go ahead and make use of it! Just one thing though - don't go producing the ideas of "me" and "mine"!
Thus, in Dhamma language, empty does not mean "devoid of all content." Anyone who takes it as meaning this is ignorant of Dhamma and ignorant of the language of Dhamma. Such a person is speaking only everyday language. If we go forcing this everyday meaning into the context of Dhamma language, how can we ever make any sense of Dhamma? Do make a special effort to understand this word. It has these two quite distinct meanings.  

The best way from 

Way to the happy life: TWO KINDS OF LANGUAGE:

One language for the world. People in the world should know . TWO KINDS OF LANGUAGE: Everyday Language & Dhamma language (2) Lectur...


One language for the world.People in the world should know.


Everyday Language & Dhamma language

Lecture at Suan Mokkhabalarama, Chaiya
8 October 1966
Translated by Roderick Bucknell
          Looking now more closely at things, we shall examine a word that relates to our day-to-day life - the word "work." In everyday language, the word "work" refers to earning a living. It is something we can't avoid. We have to work in order to eat, to fill the belly, and to satisfy sensual desires. This is unavoidable chore of earning a living is what is meant by the word "work" taken as everyday language. Taken as Dhamma language, "work" refers to mind training - kammatthana, that is, the practice of Dhamma. The actual practice of Dhamma is the Work.

         Ordinary people, those who have not seen Dhamma, work out of necessity in order to provide themselves with food and the things they desire. But for the genuine aspirant, the person who has caught a glimpse of Dhamma, work consists in putting the Dhamma into practice. This kind of work has to be done sincerely, earnestly, and diligently, with perseverance and discernment. Many kinds of high qualities must be present if it is to be completed successfully.
          The work of everyday language can be considered at a higher level. Though our work may be of a worldly nature, if we do it the right way, then ultimately that work will teach us. It will bring us to an understanding of the true nature of the mental life; it will enable us to recognize impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and non-selfhood (aniccam, dukkham, anatta); it will bring us to the truth, without our making any conscious effort in that direction. So in Dhamma language "work" refers to the practice that leads to the truth found right in one's own mind. Even the job of keeping the body fit and clean is a kind of Dhamma practice, insofar as it has to be done with a good, discerning, industrious mind.
          In summary, "work" in everyday language means earning a living out of necessity; "work" in Dhamma lanugage means putting the Dhamma into practice. The word "kammatthana" (mind training) means work, good solid Dhamma practice. This is the meaning of "work" in Dhamma language.

          Let us say something more about the Sublime Way of Life. In the everyday language of the average person who know nothing of Dhamma, the words "Sublime Life" (brahmacariya) mean no more than abstention from improper sexual activity. But in Dhamma language, Sublime Way of Life refers to any kind of purposeful giving up of mental defilement (kilesa) and to any form of spiritual practice which is adhered to rigorously. Regardless of what kind of practice we undertake, if we stick to it earnestly, strictly, and without backsliding, then we are living this most exalted way of life. sublime doesn't mean simply abstaining from fornication and adultery. This is how everyday language and Dhamma language differ.

         Now we make a big jump to the word "nibbana" (nirvana in Sanskrit). In the everyday language of the ordinary person, nibbana is a place or a city. This is because preachers often speak of "Nibbana, the city of immortality" or "this wonder city of Nibbana." People hearing this misunderstand it. They take it to mean that nibbana is an actual city or place. What is more, they even believe that it is a place abounding in all sorts of good things, a place where one's every wish is fulfilled and everything one wants is immediately available. They want to get to nibbana because it is the place where all wishes are granted. This is nibbana in the everyday language of foolish people who know nothing of Dhamma. Yet this kind of talk can be heard all over the place, even in most temples.
          In Dhamma language, the word "nibbana" refers to the complete and absolute extinction of every kind of defilement and misery. Any time there is freedom from kilesa and dukkha, there is nibbana. If defilements have been eradicated completely, it is permanent nibbana: the total extinguishing and cooling of the fire of kilesa and dukkha. This is nibbana in Dhamma language. In everyday language, nibbana is a dream-city; in Dhamma language, nibbana is the complete and utter extinction of dukkha right here and now. Think about it. In which of these two ways is nibbana understood by most people, in particular by the old folk who come to listen to sermons in temples?

          Pressing on now, we come to the expression "path and fruit" (magga-phala).The expression "path and fruit" is so popular it has become hackneyed. Even ordinary people doing any old thing may refer to "path and fruit." As soon as something turns out according to plan they say, "It's path and fruit!" Even the most worldly of worldlings in the most worldly of situations will say, "It's path and fruit!" meaning that things have turned out as hoped. This is how the term "path and fruit" is used in everyday language.
But in Dhamma language, "path and fruit" refers to the destruction of dukkha and the defilements which give rise to it. To do this in the right manner, step by step, in accordance with the true nature of things, is the meaning of "path and fruit" in Dhamma language. People are much given to using the expression "path and fruit" in everyday speech. To distinguish this everyday usage from the special usage of Dhamma language, we have to be very careful.

           Now we turn to a rather strange word, the word "Mara" (the tempter, the devil). The Mara of everyday language is conceived as a kind of monster with body, face, and eyes of repulsive and terrifying appearance. Mara in Dhamma language, however, is not a living creature but rather any kind of mental state opposed to the good and wholesome and to progress towards the cessation of dukkha. That which opposes and obstructs spiritual progress is called Mara. We may think of Mara as a living being if we wish, as long as we understand what he really stands for.
        No doubt you have often heard the story of how Mara came down from the Paranimmitavasavatti realm to confront the Buddha-to-be. This was the real Mara the Tempter. He came down from the highest heaven, the Paranimmitavasavatti realm, which is a heaven of sensual enjoyments of the highest order, a paradise abounding in everything the heart could desire, where someone is always standing by to gratify one's every wish. This is Mara the Tempter, but not the one with the ugly, ferocious countenance and reddened mouth, who is supposed to go around catching creatures to suck their blood. That is Mara as ignorant people picture him. It is the Mara of the everyday language of ignorant people who don't know how to recognize Mara when they see him.
          In Dhamma language, the word "Mara" means at worst the heaven known as Paranimmitavasavatti, the highest realm of sensuality. In general it means any mental state opposed to the good and wholesome, opposed to spiritual progress. This is Mara in Dhamma language.

           Now we shall say something about the word "world" (loka). In everyday language, the word "world" refers to the Earth, this physical world, flat or round or however you conceive it. The "world" as the physical Earth is everyday language. In Dhamma language, however, the word "world" refers to worldly (lokiya) mental states, the worldly stages in the scale of mental development - that is to say, dukkha. The condition that is impermanent, changing, unsatisfactory - this is the worldly condition of the mind. And this is what is meant by the "world" in Dhamma language. Hence it is said that the world is dukkha, dukkha is the world. When the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truth (ariya-sacca), he sometimes used the term "world" and sometimes the term "dukkha" They are one and the same. For instance, he spoke of:
- the world;
- the cause of the arising of the world;
- the extinction of the world;
- the path that brings about the extinction of the world.
What he meant was:
- dukkha;
- the cause of dukkha;
- the extinction of dukkha;
- the path that brings about the extinction of dukkha.
So in the language of the Buddha, the language of Dhamma, the word "world" refers to dukkha; suffering and the world are one and the same.
Taken another way, the word "world" refers to things that are low, shallow, not profound, and fall short of their highest potential. For instance, we speak of such and such a thing as worldly, meaning that it is not Dhamma. This is another meaning of the word "world" in Dhamma language. "World" does not always refer simply to this Earth, as in everyday language.

          Now, going a little higher, we come to the word "birth" (jati). In everyday language, the word "birth" refers to physically coming into the world from the mother's womb. A person is born physically only once. Having been born, one lives in the world until one dies and enters the coffin. Physical birth happens to each of us only once. This birth from the mother's womb is what is meant by "birth" in everyday language.
          In Dhamma language, the word "birth" refers to the birth of the idea "I" or "ego" that arises in the mind throughout each day. In this sense, the ordinary person is born very often, time and time again; a more developed person is born less frequently; a person well advanced in practice (ariyan, noble one) is born less frequently still, and ultimately ceases being born altogether. Each arising in the mind of the idea of "I" in one form or another is called a "birth." Thus, birth can take place many times over in a single day. As soon as one starts thinking like an animal, one is born as an animal in that same moment. To think like a human being is to be born a human being. To think like a celestial being is to be born a celestial being. Life, the individual, pleasure and pain, and the rest-all these were identified by the Buddha as simply momentary states of consciousness. So the word "birth" means in Dhamma language the arising of the idea of "I" or "me", and not, as in everyday language, physical birth from the mother's womb.
           The word "birth" is very common in the Buddha's discourses. When he was speaking of everyday things, he used the word "birth" with its everyday meaning. But when he was expounding Higher Dhamma - for instance, when discussing conditioned arising (paticca-samuppada) - he used the word "birth" (jati) with the meaning it has in Dhamma language. In his description of conditioned arising, he wasn't talking about physical birth. He was talking about the birth of attachment to the ideas of "me" and "mine", "myself" and "my own."

Now let's consider the word "death." Death in everyday language means that event which necessitates putting something in a coffin and cremating or burying it. But in Dhamma language, the word "death" refer to the cessation of the idea mentioned just a moment ago, the idea of "I" or "me". The ceasing of this idea is what is meant by "death" in Dhamma language.

          Let's talk about the word "life." This word in everyday language, the language of immature people, applies to anything that is not yet dead, that still exists, moves about, walks, and eats. In the more precise language of biology, it refers the normal functioning of the protoplasm, of the cell and nucleus. The normal functioning and development of these is referred to as "life". This is an even more materialistic kind of everyday language.
          In Dhamma language, "life" refers to the truly deathless state, the unconditioned, nibbana, life without limitations. This is life. If we are speaking everyday language, "life" has the ordinary familiar meaning. If we are speaking Dhamma language, "life" refers to the deathless state. When there is no birth, there is also no death. This state is the unconditioned. It is what we call nibbana, and what in other religions is often spoken of as the life everlasting. It is life that never again comes to an end. It is life in God, or whatever one cares to call it. This is the real life, life as understood in Dhamma language. 
The best way from  

Way to the happy life: TWO KINDS OF LANGUAGE:

One language for the world

: TWO KINDS OF LANGUAGE:: One language for the world ... TWO KINDS OF LANGUAGE: Everyday Language & Dhamma language (1) Lecture at Suan Mokkhabalarama, Chaiya 8...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Way to the happy life: Way to the happy life: Real Life

Real life Real life is beautiful and refreshing, without forcing things, shaking, or shudd...



Way to the happy life: TWO KINDS OF LANGUAGE:

One language for the world ... TWO KINDS OF LANGUAGE: Everyday Language & Dhamma language (1) Lecture at Suan Mokkhabalarama, Chaiya 8...


One language for the world ...


Everyday Language & Dhamma language (1)

Lecture at Suan Mokkhabalarama, Chaiya
8 October 1966
Translated by Roderick Bucknell

         Today's talk is rather special. Time and time again I have noticed that, regardless of how the subject is explained, there are a great many aspects of the more profound teaching that the majority of people dont understand at all. People hear things explained many times over and still don't understand. Why is this? If we look into it, we discover the reason. Most of us are familiar only with everyday language, the language spoken by the ordinary person, ordinary worldly language. We fail to realize the existence of another quite different and very special language: the language of religion, the language of Dhamma.

          The language of Dhamma is something altogether different from the language of everyday. This point must be borne well in mind. Everyday language and Dhamma language are two distinct and different modes of speaking. Everyday language is worldly language, the language of people who do not know Dhamma. Dhamma language is the language spoken by people who have gained a deep insight into the Truth, into Dhamma. Having perceived Dhamma, they speak in terms appropriate to their experience, and so Dhamma language comes into being. This special mode of speaking is what we call Dhamma language. It is a language quite distinct from ordinary everyday language.

          So there are two languages: Dhamma language and everyday language. Everyday language is based on physical things and on experiences accessible to the ordinary person. Being based on the physical rather than the spiritual, it serves only for discussion of physical, worldly matters and situations. It serves only for the tangible things perceived under ordinary everyday circumstances. By contrast, Dhamma language has to do with the mental world, with the tangible, non-physical world. In order to be able to speak and understand this Dhamma language, one must have gained insight into the mental world. Consequently, only people who have seen Dhamma, the Truth, speak the Dhamma language, the language of the non-material mental world which is above the physical.

          Let us put this another way. We distinguish ordinary physical language from metaphysical language. The field of metaphysics is utterly different from that of physics and consequently there is a special metaphysical language. So in addition to the ordinary language of the physical, there is a language that transcends the physical. The physical language is the worldly, conventional language used under ordinary circumstances and based on physical things. The metaphysical language is based on mental things. It has to be learned, studied, and understood. It is based not on the physical world but on the mental. I hope you can now see the distinction between everyday language and Dhamma language.

          The point now is that if we know only everyday language, we are in no position to understand true Dhamma when we hear it. If we don't know the language of Dhamma, then we can't understand Dhamma, the supramundane Truth that can truly liberate us from unsatisfactoriness and misery (dukkha). The reason we don't understand Dhamma is that we know only everyday language and are not familiar with Dhamma language.
It is essential always to interpret the Buddha's teaching in terms of Dhamma language as well as in terms of everyday language. Both meanings must be considered. Please take careful note of the following passages:
          Appamatto ubho atthe adhiganhati pandito,
          Ditthe dhamma ca yo attho, yo ca'ttho saparayiko.
           Atthabhisamayadhiro pan d ito ti pavuccati.
           The wise and heedful person is familiar with both modes of speaking: the meaning seen by ordinary people and the meaning which they can't understand. One who is fluent in the various modes of speaking is a wise person.
          This is a general principle to be applied when studying Dhamma, whether at a high or low level. It is also applicable in ordinary spoken language. The passages cited contain the unambiguous expression "ubho atthe," that is "both meaning" or "both modes of speaking." A discerning person must consider both meanings or modes of speaking and not just one of them alone. Anyone who, for instance, considers only the ordinary everyday meaning and ignores the other meaning, the meaning in terms of Dhamma lanugauge, cannot be called a wise or discerning person. As the Buddha said, a discerning person is one who is able to take into consideration both modes of speaking. It behoves us, then to be careful and to study diligently in order to acquire this ability to take into account both possible interpretations, the one in terms of everyday language and the other in terms of Dhamma laungauge.
          We shall now consider some examples of what I mean. Each of the following words will be explained according to both everyday launguage and Dhamma language. This should enable you to clearly understand both modes of expression.

The first example is the word "Buddha." As you know, the word "Buddha" in everyday language refers to the historical Enlightened Being, Gotama Buddha. It refers to a physical man of flesh and bone who was born in India over two thousand years ago, died, and was cremated. This is the meaning of the word "Buddha" in everyday language.
Considered in terms of Dhamma lanugage, however, the word "Buddha" refers to the Truth which the historical Buddha realized and taught, namely the Dhamma itself. The Buddha said:
          One who see the Dhamma sees the Tathagata. (a word the Buddha often used to refer to himself) One who see the Tathagata sees the Dhamma. One who sees not the Dhamma, though grasping at the robe of the Tathagata, cannot be said to have seen the Tathagata.
          Now, the Dhamma is something intangible. It is not something physical, certainly not flesh and bones. Yet the Buddha said it is one and the same as the Enlightened One. "One who sees the Dhamma sees the Tathagata." Anyone who fails to see the Dhamma cannot be said to have seen the Enlightened One. So in Dhamma language, the Buddha is one and the same as that Truth by virtue of which he became the Buddha, and anyone who sees that Truth can be said to have seen the true Buddha. To see just his physical body would not be to see the Buddha at all and would bring no real benefit.
          During the Buddha's lifetime, the majority of people were unfavorably disposed towards him. Some abused him and even did him physical harm. They didn't understand him because what they saw was only his physical body, the outer shell, the Buddha of everyday language. The real Buddha, the Buddha of Dhamma language, is the Truth in his mind, knowing which the man because "Buddha." When he said, "Whoever sees the Truth see me. Whoever sees me sees the Truth," he was speaking Dhamma lanugage.
Again, the Buddha said, "The Dhamma and the Vinaya (Discipline), which I have proclaimed and have demonstrated, these shall be your teacher when I hae passed away." Thus the real Buddha has not passed away, has not ceased to exist. What ceased to exist was just the physical body, the outer shell. The real Teacher, that is, the Dhamma-Vinaya, is still with us. This is the meaning of the word "Buddha" in Dhamma language. The "Buddha" of Dhamma language is the Dhamma itself, which made him Buddha.

The second word to consider is "Dhamma" (Dharma in Sanskrit). At the childish level of everyday language, the word is understood as referring to the actual books that contain the scriptures, the "Dhamma" in the bookcase. Or it may be understood as referring to the spoken word used in expounding the Teaching. This is the meaning of the word "Dhamma" in everyday language., the language of deluded people who has not yet seen the true Dhamma.
In term of Dhamma language, the Dhamma is one and the same as the Enlightened One. "One who see the Dhamma sees the Tathagata. One who sees the Tathagata see the Dhamma." This is the real Dhamma. In the original Pali language, the word "Dhamma" was used to refer to all of the intricate and involved things that go to make up what we call Nature. Time will not permit us to discuss this point in detail here, so we shall mention just the main points. The word "Dhamma" embraces:
1. Nature itself;
2. The law of Nature;
3. The duty of each human being to act in accordance with the Law of Nature;
4. The benefits to be derived from this acting in accordance with the Law of Nature.
         This is the wide range of meaning covered by the word "Dhamma." It does not refer simply to books, palm-leaf manuscripts, or the voices of preachers. The word "Dhamma," as used in Dhamma laungage, refers to non-material things. Dhamma is all-embracing; it is profound; it includes all things, some difficult to understand and some not so difficult.

          Now we shall consider the word "Sangha." In everyday language, the word "Sangha" refers to the community of monks who wear the yellow robe and wander from place to place. This is the Sangha as it is understood in everyday language, the language of the unenlightened person who has not yet seen the Truth. In Dhamma language, the word "Sangha" refers once again to the Truth, to the Dhamma itself. It refers to the high qualities, of whatever kind and degree, that exist in the mind of the monk, the man of virtue. There are certain high mental qualities that make a man a monk. The totality of these high qualities existing in the mind of the monk is what is called the Sangha.
          The Sangha of everyday language is the assembly of monks themselves. The Sangha of Dhamma  language are those high qualities in the minds of the monks. The Sangha proper consists of these four levels: the stream-enterer (sota-panna), the once-returner (sakadagami), the non-returner (anagami), and the fully perfected being (arahant, worthy one, undefiled by any egoism), These terms, too, refer to mental rather than physical qualities, because the physical frames of these people are in no way different from those of anyone else. Where they do differ is in mental or spiritual qualities. This is what make a person a stream-enterer, once-returner, non-returner, or arahant. This is how the word "Sangha" is to be understood in Dhamma language.

          Now we come to the word "religion" (sasana). In everyday language, the language of the undiscerning person, the word "religion" refers simply to temples, monastery buildings, pagodas, saffron robes, and so on. If there are pagodas and temples all over the place, people say, "Ah! The religion is thriving!" This is what "religion" means in everyday language.
In Dhamma language, the word "religion" refers to the genuine Dhamma which can truly serve people as a refuge or point of support. The Dhamma which actually can be for people a basis of support, which really can bring about the end of dukkha (suffering, misery, unsatisfactoriness), the Dhamma is the religion. This is the meaning of "religion" as that term is used in Dhamma language. "The religion is thriving" means that this very special something which has the power to put an end to dukkha is spreading and expanding among people. To say that the religion is thriving does not by any means imply progress in terms of yellow robes. The religion in everyday language is temples, monastery buildings, pagodas, yellow robes, and so on; the religion in Dhamma language is the truth which genuinely serves humanity as a refuge
          Those who take the word "religion" to mean "the Teaching" are nearer the mark than those who take it as standing for temples and so on. To consider progress in religion study and instruction as true religious progress is correct up to a point. But it is not good enough. To understand the religion as simply the Teaching is still to understand it only in terms of everyday lanugage.
         In terms of Dhamma language, the religion is "the sublime or Excellent Way of Life" (brahmacariya), that is to say, life lived in accordance with Dhamma. It is this exalted way of living which is "glorious in its beginning, middle, and end." By Sublime Way of Life the Buddha meant the way of practice that can really extinguish dukkha (suffering). The glory of its beginning is study and learning; the glory of its middle is the practice; the glory of its end is the real reward that comes from the practice. This is the Sublime Way of Life, the religion of Dhamma language,. Taken as everyday language, "religion" means at best the teaching; taken as Dhamma language, it means the Sublime Ways of Life, glorious in its beginning, middle, and end. The two meanings are very different. 

The best from

Way to the happy life: Real Life

Real life Real life is beautiful and refreshing, without forcing things, shaking, or shudd...


BUDDHISM AND THE CHALLENGES OF THE MODERN WORLD: Why did he say that . BUDDHISM AND THE CHALLENGES OF THE MODERN WORLD By Donald K. Swearer V enerable members of the Sangha, org...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Way to the happy life: Way to the happy life: BUDDHISM AND THE CHALLENGE...

Way to the happy life: Way to the happy life: BUDDHISM AND THE CHALLENGE...: Way to the happy life: BUDDHISM AND THE CHALLENGES OF THE MODERN WORLD : Why did he say that . BUDDHISM AND THE CHALLENGES OF THE MODERN...


Way to the happy life: BUDDHISM AND THE CHALLENGES OF THE MODERN WORLD: Why did he say that . BUDDHISM AND THE CHALLENGES OF THE MODERN WORLD By Donald K. Swearer V enerable members of the Sangha, org...


Why did he say that.

By Donald K. Swearer

Venerable members of the Sangha, organizers and sponsors of this event, panelists, distinguished guests, and friends:
 It is a great privilege for me to be here with you today to remember and honor Buddhadasa Bhikkhu on the occasion of his 100th birth centenary. It was my good fortune to be introduced to the writings of Than Buddhadasa nearly fifty years ago. On the eve of returning to the United States after more than two years as a teacher of English at Bangkok Christian College and Mahachulalongkorn Rajavidayalai, several Mahachula students I was tutoring kindly gave me a Dhammadana gift of Than Buddhadasa’s published books. My reading of Buddhadasa beginning at that time has had a lasting influence on my thinking and my life. Subsequently, I had the good fortune of meeting Than Buddhadasa several times at Suan Mokkh. Discussing the Dhamma with him as we strolled through the natural surroundings of the Garden of Empowering Liberation (Suan Mokkhabalarama) is an experience that continues to linger in my memory.
      The topic of “Buddhism and The Challenges of the Modern World” suggested by Phra Phaisal is very timely but also very broad. It is timely because the global challenges confronting us today seem to be countless. Everywhere we look there is a crisis: the crisis in the Middle East, the global environmental crisis, the global AIDS crisis, the cultural crisis created by global capitalism; the political crisis in the United States, the political crisis in Thailand, the crisis in the Thai sangha, and so on. On this occasion honoring Than Buddhadasa it is appropriate to look to Than Ajaan for help and guidance in the face of these challenges and crises.
     Buddhism teaches that all things are subject to change. This truism has two important implications for the challenges we face today. First, with right knowledge, right mindfulness, right intention, and right effort we can improve our own lives, our societies, and the global community. The law of karma is not a fatalistic doctrine even though it has been interpreted that way. Rather, karma teaches that we are conditioned but not determined by the past, and that we can influence our future by our actions in the present. Second, we should realize that although the today’s global challenges are unique, other people, in other times and places, have also faced challenges that may have seemed equally daunting. If we are to solve the problems of the present we must learn from the past if we are to have a future.
        It is a truism that economic, political, social, and cultural changes over the past half-century associated with globalization have profoundly affected Thailand (as well as other countries). In several areas, including religion, it has creataed greater diversity and fragmentation. Different visions of Thai Buddhist identity are competing with one another today: some within the national sangha; others semi-independent such as Wat Dhammakai; still others outside the national sangha such as Santi Asok; and, Buddhist based NGOs led by laity.
      Than Buddhadasa has been a seminal influence on the development of Thai modernist Buddhist thought and socially engaged Buddhism in Thailand. Phra Phaisan, Phra Payom, Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, Dr. Prawet Wasi, S. Sivaraksa, and many others, have expressed their indebtedness to Than Buddhadasa. Some such as S. Sivaraksa identify with the international, ecumenical perspective of socially engaged Buddhism associated with H.H. the Dalai Lama and the Vietnamese Zen monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. Socially engaged Buddhist leaders emphasize universal Buddhist values and principles: wisdom, compassion, mindful awareness, peace, non-greed, non-violence, and the inter-dependent, inter-becoming nature of all things. These values and principles constitute what some scholars see as a new form of international (global) ecumenical Buddhism with which Than Buddhadasa has been identified.
       This afternoon I shall not be looking at Than Buddhadasa specifically within the competing voices of contemporary Thai Buddhism—that will be the subject of an October panel honoring Than Ajaan at the Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions in October. Rather, in this context I want to emphasize the universality of his vision (wisayathat sakhon) as a major contribution Buddhism can make to addressing the challenges of the modern world, and an antidote to narrow understandings of personal, communal, 
and national identity that have contributed to the anger, hatred, violence, and conflict not only in the Middle East but globally. (A year ago, the Center for the Study of World Religions convened a conference on religion and nationalism. As the twenty-five conferees discussed in depth the various political, economic, and historical factors that contributed to conflict in Iraq, Bosnia, Sri Lanka, and the Sudan, it became readily apparent that narrow, contentious views of religion and ethnicity were two major factors in these volatile situations. Unfortunately, in these and other contexts, progressive, inclusive, nonviolent religious views are too often overshadowed by opposing sentiments--sometimes associated with the term, “fundamentalism”--be they Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and even Buddhist.)
 To address the theme, “Buddhism and the Challenges of the Modern World,” I propose to focus on four topics of Than Buddhadasa’s thought that are relevant to four major global challenges of the 21st century. The four topics are: (1) thammika sangkhom that I translate as the “righteous community;” (2) thamma pen thammachat (the dhamma as nature); (3) phassa khon/phassa tham (everyday language/truth language; and (4) mai mi sasana (no religion!). The four challenges they address are the challenges of social justice, the environmental crisis, ideological absolutisms, and religious violence.
Although I shall discuss each topic separately, they are closely interrelated because Than Buddhadasa’s thought is a unified system. Different concepts such as phassa khon/phassa tham and thammika sangkhom are closely interrelated even though they may appear not to be. Than Ajaan’s thought is unified because it is grounded in the concept of dhamma, and the dhamma is nothing other the principle of co-dependence and co-arising (paticca samuppada). All dhammas, i.e. everything, are interrelated. Nothing exists independently and in isolation. For example, in his essay, “Phraphutacaw Ku’ Krai?” (Who Is the Buddha?) Than Ajaan states that at a superficial level of understanding Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, are separate; however, at a deeper level of understanding they are one. For the average Thai Buddhist (if there is such a thing as an average Thai Buddhist!), Than Buddhadasa’s statement that Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha are one, must be startling and confusing.

Phasa Khon/Phasa Tham: The Challenge of Ideological Absolutism

Those who predicted the demise of ideology with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War were sadly mistaken. Political and religious ideologies flourish today as does the scriptural literalism of fundamentalist religion in many forms and manifestations—Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and even Buddhist. Ideological fervor often leads to absolute distinctions: “My belief is absolutely true; therefore, your belief must be false. My way of life, my religion, my nation is good; therefore, your way of life, your religion, your nation is an ‘axis of evil’.” Ideological absolutism always leads to intolerance, an “ends justifies the means” mentality, and often to violence.
Than Buddhadasa’s theory of two languages or two levels of language--an outer, physical, literal, conventional dimension and an inner, spiritual, symbolic dimension challenges textual and doctrinal literalism, and simplistic, doctrinaire ideologies. As such, it can be seen as one antidote to today’s ideological battles.Because Than Ajaan’s views were novel, he was attacked as a Mahayana heretic by some Theravada critics for several of his teachings such as Nibbana is in Samsara, and the true Buddha is not the historical person but the Dhammakaya who is with us here and now. To his critics, the distinction between Phasa Khon/Phasa Tham, was a Mahayana doctrine--the two truth theory. Whether called a Communist, as he was in the 50s, or a Mahayana heretic, Than Ajaan was not bothered by labels. He recognized labels as a source of attachment that blind us from seeing the truth. Labeling Than Buddhadasa as a Communist or a Mahayanist is a way of rejecting him, and ignoring the power and complexity of his thought.In his essay, “Phasa Khon/Phasa Tham,” Than Buddhadasa analyzes the meaning of many terms, some specifically religious such as Buddha, Dhamma, Nibbana, God, but ordinary words, as well: for example, the word, “person,” As a word from common discourse we use, ‘person,” all the time without thinking about its meaning. Similarly, we often use the name of person in a mindless way. The name becomes merely a label that hides the complex nature of the 
Likewise, in everyday language, “person” refers to the outer form as in the sentence, “We see a person walking down the street.” But, in Than Buddhadasa view, to limit our understand of “person” to the superficial, outer form ignores the profundity of the Dhamma level meaning of the word, For Than Buddhadasa, “person” refers specifically to special qualities implied by the word, “human;” in particular, the mental qualities of a lofty mind or high mindedness. To illustrate his point, Than Ajaan uses the example of someone who criticizes a friend by saying, “You’re not a person!” What is implied by “person” in this case is not the superficial, outer form but, rather, that the individual lacks the special qualities of what it means to be human, that is, the deeper or Dhamma level of meaning of the term.
What about the word, “enemy”? From an ideological perspective we label the enemy as the “Other,” someone we reject, hate, or want to destroy. For Than Buddhadasa that is the conventional or everyday level interpretation of the word, but from a Dhamma level of understanding the “enemy” is our mind, a mind deluded by ignorance and misguided by blind attachment: “With the mind well-directed and fixed on Dhamma, the enemy is absent and the friend is there instead.” In today’s ideological wars, Than Buddhadasa challenges us to the difficult task of transforming “enemy” into “friend.” His challenge may be idealistic but even Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us!!”

Than Buddhadasa’s teaching about phasa khon/phasa tham reminds me of Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the founders of socially engaged Buddhism during the Vietnam war. During that time, Nhat Hanh organized the Tiep Hien Order (“being-in-touch/present time”) or Order of Interbeing. The first of the fourteen precepts of the Order of Interbeing is the following: “Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are only guiding means; they are not absolute truth.” In explaining the precept, Nhat Hanh points to the well-known metaphor that the Buddha’s teaching is a raft to cross the river of samsara to the farther shore; the raft is not the shore and if we cling to the raft we miss everything. He continues, “The Order of Interbeing was born in Vietnam during the war, which  was a conflict between two world ideologies. In the name of If you have a gun, you can shoot one, two, three, five people; but if you have an ideology and stick to it, thinking it is the absolute truth, you can kill millions.” (Being Peace)

Nhat Hanh and Buddhadasa Bhikkhu are constructive critics of ideological absolutism and scriptural literalism—a urgent, crucial message for our times.

Mai Me Sasana (No Religion): The Challenge of Religious Idolatry

Unfortunately, religion has become a major contributing factor to violent conflict globally. The examples are manifold: Sinhalese Buddhist vs. Tamil Hindu in Sri Lanka, Shi’a vs. Sunni in Iraq, Protestant vs. Catholic in northern Ireland; Hindu vs. Muslim in India; Catholic vs. Eastern Orthodox vs. Muslim in Bosnia; and so on. To be sure, violence and conflict in these and other situations has many causes but religion, along with ethnicity, place, and nationalism, are among the main culprits. Transforming intra-and inter-religious divisions and hatred, into a positive, reconciling force to resolve conflict and violence is one of the major challenges of the modern world. Such reconciliation requires open, inclusive, tolerant attitudes towards one own religion as well as the faith of others.
Than Buddhadasa held the view that the world’s great religions, while different historically, share a common ground. In his provocative Dhamma talk, No Religion! (Mai Mi Sasana) Than Ajaan startled his Thai Buddhist audience by saying:

The ordinary, ignorant worldling is under the
impression that there are many religions and that they
are all different to the extent of being hostile and opposed.
Thus one considers Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism as
incompatible and even bitter enemies. Such is the conception
of the worldly person who speaks according to ordinary
impressions. Precisely because of such characterizations there
exist different religions hostile to one another. If, however,
people penetrate to the fundamental nature (dhamma)
of religion, they will regard all religions as essentially similar.
Although they may say there is Buddhism, Christianity,
Islam, and so on, they will also say that essentially they are
the same. If they should go on to a deeper understanding of
the dhamma until finally they realize the absolute truth, they
will discover that there is no such thing called religion—that
there is no Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam. Therefore, how
can they be the same or conflicting? (Mai Mi Sasana)

He expressed a similar point of view in his Sinclair Thompson lectures delivered at McGilvary Theological Seminary in 1967 (B. E. 2510):

Christianity and Buddhism are both universal religions; they exist wherever truly religious people practice their religion in the most perfect way. If religious persons show respect for each religion’s
founder and for the Dhamma-truth at the core of each
religion, they will understand this interpretation. Devotion to a religion results in the cessation of self-interest and self-importance and therefore leads to a realization of the universality and unity of all religions. (Buddhism and Christianity)

    Than Buddhadasa often used similes and metaphors to illustrate his points. His discussion of religion was no exception. In Mai Mi Sasana he illustrates his inclusive universalism with the simile of water:

Let us consider a simile, something very simple—water.
Most people think there are many different kinds of water
and will view various kinds of water such as rainwater, well 
water, water in swamps, water in toilets as if they have
nothing in common. This judgment is based on external
criteria. A person with more knowledge, however, realizes
that regardless of type or kind, pure water can be distilled
and filtered out of it. If we proceed further in our analysis
we shall conclude there is no water—only two parts of
hydrogen and one part of oxygen. What we have been calling
water is void, empty. (Mai Mi Sasana)

     It is the ethical implications of Than Buddhadasa’s understanding of religion that I wish to emphasize. What I characterize as Than Ajaan’s inclusive universalism is an expression of his conviction that nonattachment lies at the heart of Buddhism and all religions. Preoccupation with the external trappings of religious institutions and their ritual ceremonies represents a particular form of attachment and, consequently, obscures the true meaning of religion which is to transform egoism into altruism. In the case of conventional Thai Buddhist practice, Than Buddhadasa directs especially sharp criticism at the practice of merit-making rituals: “the perception of most adherents of Buddhism is limited to what they can do to get a reward. While supporting the temples or monks and observing the precepts, they have only the objective of getting more in return than they give. …The heart of Buddhism is not getting things but getting rid of them. It is, in other words, nonattachment…” In the area of inter-religious relationships, Buddhadasa believes that those for whom religion is a matter of external form and practice will have a narrow, exclusivistic understanding of their religion that inevitably leads to inter-religious conflict. Here Buddhadasa makes a connection between the terms “outer” and “outsider.” Those who see their religion in terms of outer form fail to understand its essential nature. Consequently, “they look down upon other religions while praising and supporting their own, thinking of themselves as a separate group. Outsiders are not part of our fellowship. They are wrong; only we are right.” For Buddhadasa, when attached to external, outer, physical  forms we see everything in dualistic terms--good or evil, merit or sin, happiness or unhappiness, gain or loss, is or is not, my religion versus their religion. Such dualistic thinking is at the heart of religious conflict. Buddhadasa’s universalism counters such a view.

Thamma Pen Thammachat (The Dhamma Is Nature): The Challenge of Environmental Destruction

     The news media and television coverage confront us daily with the extent and complexity of the environmental crisis: global warming, draught in Africa, the melting of the polar ice caps, rising sea levels, erratic temperature change, increase in violent storms, ocean and water pollution, and so on. For over 50 years science has made enormous contributions to our understanding of many aspects of environmental problems. Without collaborative scientific research we would be unaware of the nature of global warming, species extinction, or the effects of pollution on health. However, despite our increasing knowledge about the facts of environmental problems, they have not altered the kind of human behavior that is exploiting nature nor have the facts affected human habits of addictive consumption. Environmentalists increasingly realize that science and public policy are not sufficient to transform human consciousness and behavior for a sustainable future. Ethics, religion, and spirituality must be engaged to transform our understanding, attitudes, and actions in regard to our patterns of consumption and care for the earth.
      Than Buddhadasa’s concept of nature (thammachat) as the Dhamma can contribute toward transforming our understanding, attitudes, and actions regarding the care of the earth. It was Than Ajaan’s perception of the liberating power of nature-as-dhamma that inspired him to found Wat Suan Mokkh as a center of teaching and practice. For Than Buddhadasa the natural surroundings of his forest monastery were nothing less than a medium for personal transformation:

"Trees, rocks, sand, even dirt and insects can speak. This doesn't mean, as some people believe that they are spirits (phi) or gods (thewada). Rather, if we reside in na
and thoughts arising that are truly out of the ordinary. At first we'll feel a sense of peace and quiet (sangopyen) which may eventually move beyond that feeling to a transcendence of self. The deep sense of calm that nature provides through separation (wiwek) from the troubles and anxieties which plague us in the day-to-day world serves to protect heart and mind. Indeed, the lessons nature teaches us lead to a new birth beyond the suffering (qwam thuk) that results from attachment to self. Trees and rocks, then, can talk to us. They help us understand what it means to cool down from the heat of our confusion, despair, anxiety, and suffering."
(Siang Takong Jak Thammachat)

For Than Buddhadasa, it is only by being in nature that the trees, rocks, earth, sand, animals, birds, and insects can teach us the lesson of self-forgetting. In what I call, Than Ajaan’s “spiritual biocentricism,” being attuned to the lessons of nature is being at one with the Dhamma The destruction of nature, then, implies the destruction of the Dhamma, and the destruction of the Dhamma is the destruction of our humanity.
     Toward the end of his life the degredation of the natural environment became a matter of great concern for Than Buddhadasa. One of his talks at Wat Suan Mokkh in 1990, three years before his death, was titled, "Buddhists and the Care of Nature" [Buddhasasanik Kap Kan Anurak Thammachat]. This essay provides insight into both the biocentric and ethical dimensions of his environmental concern. The essay might be read as Than Ajaan’s plea for nature conservation and sustainability.
     From an environmental perspective, I render the Thai term, anurak, as "conservation." As you know, many Thai monks are involved in efforts to stop the exploitation of forests in their districts and provinces. They have been called "forest conservation monks" (phra anurak pa). Wat Suan Mokkh exemplifies Than Ajaan’s dedication to preserving a natural environment. Anurak, as embodied in his life and work, moreover, conveys a rich, nuanced meaning close to its Pali roots: to be imbued with the quality of protecting, sheltering, and caring for. By the term, anurak, Than Buddhadasa intends this deeper, dhammic sense of anu-rakkha, an intrinsic, active "caring for" that
ture near trees and rocks we'll discover feelings 
issues forth from the very nature of our being. Caring, then, is the active expression of our fundamental empathy for all creatures and the earth that we discover by hearing the Dhamma in the “voices of nature.” One cares for the forest because one empathizes with the forest just as one cares for people, including oneself, because one has become empathetic. Anurak, the ability to be in a state of empathy, is fundamentally linked to non-attachment or liberation from preoccupation with self which is at the very core of Than Ajaan’s thought. Caring (anurak) in the Dhammic sense, therefore, is the active expression of our empathetic identification with all life forms--sentient and non-sentient, human beings and nature.

Dhammika Sanghom (Righteous Community): The Challenge of Social Justice

Than Ajaan’s teachings challenge mindless attachment to parochial religious practices directed toward self-aggrandizement, e.g. his critique of merit-making and the veneration of amulets; simplistic doctrinal literalism, e. g. his distinction between phasa khon/phasa tham; and the making of Buddhadhamma into a self-serving, exclusivistic ideology, e.g. his universalizing of the concept of dhamma. Than Ajaan’s vision of dhammika sangkhom offers a global, cosmopolitan understanding of what it means to be not only a Thai Buddhist in the 21st century but to be fully and truly human.
Time and again in his writings Than Buddhadasa challenges conventional, literal, narrow understandings (quam kawcai thi pen thamniem, tam tua nangsu’, khap) of Buddhism and all religions in favor of universal principles of human development (lak sakon qwam charoen pen manut)--not just identifying oneself as a Thai Buddhist, an American Christian, or an Iranian Muslim but as a human being. For example, in his essay, “The Technik (Technique) of Being Human,” (Technik Haeng Pen Manut) he reinterprets the Four Noble Truths as: nature (thammachat), the laws of nature (kot thammachat), the duty of humankind to live according to the laws of nature, and the consequences of following the laws of nature. His interpretation reflects his view that all human beings share a common natural environment, and are part of communities imbedded in the natural order of things (kot thammachat). This interconnected universe we inhabit is the natural condition of things (pakati). To act contrary to this law of nature is to suffer (qwam thuk) because such actions contradict reality. Consequently, the good of the individual parts is predicated on the good of the whole and vice versa. Practically speaking it means that a just, equitable, peaceful, and happy society must balance (tham hai somboon) the good of the individual and the good of the whole (qwam di suan ton lae quam di suan ruam).
The ethical principle of the good of the whole is based on the truth of interdependent co-arising (paticca samuppada). Nothing exists in isolation; everything co-exists interdependently as part of a larger whole whether human, social, cosmic, or molecular: “The entire universe is a dhammika sanghkhom. Countless numbers of stars in the sky exist together in a dhammika sangkhom. Because they follow the principles of a dhammika sangkhom they survive. Our small universe with its sun and planets including the earth is a dhammika sangkhom.”
Than Buddhadasa’s view of a dhammika sangkhom reflects his persistent emphasis on overcoming attachment to self, to “me-and-mine” (tua ku khong ku). Fundamentally, both personal and social well-being (qwamcaroen khong tae la khon) result from transforming self-attachment and self-love to empathy toward others and sympathetic action on their behalf. A dhammika sangkhom, then, is a community based on the fundamental equality of all beings that both affirms but transcends all distinctions be they gender, ethnicity, or class. Such a view does not deny the existence of differences among individuals or groups; however, all people, regardless of position and status, should understand that their own personal well-being depends on the well-being of the everyone. Thus, for example, a person of wealth should not be a capitalist (nai thun) who hoards wealth for his own pleasure, but a sresthi, one whose high position enables him to be a benefactor to laborers, workers, and common folk. 

         In Lokawiparit: Hua Kho Loi Ayu 2519 Laew Raw Ca Yu Nai Lok An Saen Wiparit Ni Kan Yangrai, a collection of Than Buddhasa’s thoughts published for his centenary, Than Ajaan spells out dhammika sangkhom in ordinary, common sense terms. Because all of us inhabit the same world (chaw lok) we have a responsibility to act for the benefit (prayot) of everyone, not just one person, group, or nation. To solve today’s challenging problems we must realize that fundamentally all people share a common human nature (tuk khon mi thammachat khong qwam pen manut muankan). To be sure different members of a family, groups, or nations will disagree about many things. For example, for the standpoint of religious belief some may believe in not-self (mai me atta); others that there is a self; that one dies and is reborn (tai lae kert) or that one dies and is not reborn; however, these beliefs need not result in conflict. These are mere differences in views (pien dithi khad yang kan). When different beliefs and ways of life become the cause of conflict it is a consequence of being so blinded by our own self-interest that we ignore the deeper truth of our shared humanity (yu ruam kan santi).
Than Buddhadasa saw conflict among individuals and groups based on religion as especially heinous (laew rai). He considered it to be a rejection of the fundamental truth of the world’s religions which is to overcome acquisitive self interest, to respect others, and to act out of loving kindness (metta) for of the well-being of all. In other words, religion in an ideal sense should be at the foundation of dhammika sangkhom. (Were he living today, Buddhadasa would be deeply saddened by the increasing intensity of religious conflict globally.) Than Ajaan recognized the validity of different religious worldviews. He argued for the freedom of religious choice on the grounds of a person’s background (phu’n than dae la khon), nature (lakhana sua tua), heart and soul (duang cit, duang winnyan). Although for Than Buddhadasa the democratic principle of the freedom of religion was an important personal, social, and ethical value, the freedom of religious choice reflects the pluralism of human diversity (lak lai qwam tak tang kan khong manut) which is the nature of reality (pen pakati). Respecting the religious traditions of others is an ethical value, but it is also consistent with Than Ajaan’s understanding that diversity—in this case diversity of religious choice and expression—is in the nature of things.
In the face of political and religious conflict and violence around the globe, Than Buddhadasa’s vision of a thammika sangkhom challenges not only Thai Buddhists but each of us to commit ourselves to the task of living lives in ways that benefit all, not simply ourselves individually, our group, our religion, or our nation; lives that are dedicated to peace and reconciliation, and to building righteous communities (dhammika sangkhom) on which the future of humankind (manut) depends. 
Let me close my remarks this afternoon with Than Buddhadasa’s admonition from Lokawiparit: “tha raw tham mai samret to, kert qwam khaw cai su’ng kan lae kan dai, raw mai me wang thi ca kae khai wikritakan nai lok ni. Kho hai phayayamkan phu’a ca tham qwam khaw cai su’ng kan lae kan nai rawang sing thi kamlang mai khaw cai kan ying khu’n”.

Thank you again for this opportunity to participate in this event honoring Than Buddhadasa Bhikkhu.


The best way from