“ We are the result of what we have thought. If you speak or act with an evil thought, pain follows you. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.”
The stunning saffron robe of the Buddhist bikkhu is far more than mere dress. It symbolises a simple ascetic life, a life of detachment. To us layman it is a symbol, which in essence represents the Buddha sasana of the past and present times. The moderate shades of browns and oranges thus encourage obeisance and a sense of humble veneration amongst devotees. A Bikkhu is thus characterised by this symbolic ornamentation and within its many folds lie preserved, an eternal and strict practice, since the times of the Buddha.
The then Public Administration and Buddha Sasana Minister Karu Jayasuriya in April 2015, said,
“There is a standardised version of the Buddhist flag which some people have embarked on to modify it; The sale of “atapirikara” too will be standardized and uniformed as it has been found that people were being deceived by unscrupulous traders,” he even promised to draft gazette notifications on the standards to maintain proper standards; and any violators will be liable to be prosecuted. It was further explained that once the gazettes are issued, those selling atapirikara will be obligatory to register with the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and display their registration number on the product for public view and also be required to display the SLS certificate when selling the products. What transpired following the change of portfolios after the elections is not clear.
Buddhist devotees must be very cautious in purchasing Ata-pirikara from shops for offering to ensure that it contains the proper belongings, the eight vital items in good quality which can be used by the bikkhus. They should make sure that ata pirikara conformed to the Buddhist specifications and standards when purchasing them.
Eight items should include- [eightfold requisites as per vinaya rules]
The most important item among offerings to Bikkhus is what is conventionally known as “the eight monastic requisites” or Ata-pirikara. As it is a costly item and therefore difficult to offer to every monk, generally one Ata-Pirikara is offered to the head monk and various other items such as books, towels, umbrellas, etc., are given to the other monks.
Aluminium Paththaraya [begging bowl]
Depota Sivura (challenger Material).
Thanipota Sivura (challenger Material).
Andana Sivura (challenger Material).
Banda Patiya [belt]
Idikatu/Nuulbola (needle and ball of thread).
Dali Pihiya (razor).
Raids on Atapirikara shops
The Consumer Affairs Protection Authority (CAA) investigation teams raided shops selling Atapirikara a couple of years ago, which resulted in the fake and substandard Atapirikara products vanishing from the market. CAA Director General once said it appeared that all inferior Atapirikara products have disappeared from the shelves. The traders in the past did not defraud the temple, because they respected the Buddhist monks. But some traders have now begun to deceive not only the devotees but also the Ata Pirikara that is being offered to the Maha Sangha. The operations to examine shops, the officials of the Consumer Authority examined the Ata Pirikara under the guise of buying them. They succeeded in indicting several shops that were selling Ata Pirikara in a fraudulent manner. The officials said they launched this initiative following complaints by Temples and the public. The CAA has called on the public to constantly inform them of such malpractices. Thus the CAA under the directions of Hon Karu Jayasuriya have made great inroads into preventing the unscrupulous trader from deceiving the Buddhist religious sector.
Alms giving is one of the most widespread practices among Buddhists. It’s a way to maintain the monks, who study and perform the Buddha’s teachings, by offering them food. At the same time, the person who offers learns to give and to let go. The earlier practice was to wait for the traders to call over at regular intervals [mostly non-Buddhist] that will make meager payment for the temple and remove them in bulk form to be repacked using more attractive new packing materials making it re-saleable at higher price to the unsuspecting devotee.
The cycle continues like the karmic-cycle!
However, it looks as if the temple authorities, especially the Dayakas by themselves or in connivance with some saffron robed ‘monks’, have taken over the task of misleading or deceiving the devotees to collect monies either for the temple coffers or may be even for their nefarious activities. Most of the temples, has found a new and more profitable way of disposing of large quantities of Atapirikara collected during Katina rituals and at alms offers. The representatives of dayaka sabha will visit homes and explain the agenda of the on coming ‘pinkama’, and instead of asking for a donation they make a more attractive suggestion, that a member of the family can participate at the procession carrying a valuable Atapirika, and that the material is available at the temple for a very reasonable price of Rs 500/- to 1000/- depending on the ability. Naturally, the gullible devotee surmise it as a life time opportunity to make an offer of a sacred Pirikara, and that too after exposing it to the public at the pinkama for such an unbelievable sum; without a hum he will except the idea and pay the money and finally return the Atapirikara back to the same temple. The cycle continues like the karmic cycle.
The practice has been extended to alms giving held at Seventh-day, Three-month and Annual merit transfer on dead. Instead of carrying a small pirikara or some consumer product to the venue by the invitees— eg. Two kilos of sugar or a packet of biscuits, a packet of milk powder etc., they now approach a member of the dayaka sabha or in some instances directly the high priest of the nearest temple where the practice is encouraged, for an Atapirikara at the same cost, but proudly carry it to the place to be offered as a holy pujawa. The cycle continues with the parcel intact; even those who offer, accept and sell are clueless about the contents of it. Can the participant share this donation with deceased family members and associates and pass merits or pin
Can the Minister of Buddhasasana or the CAA Interfere?
The Minister of Buddhasasana or the CAA has little to do with this unscrupulous practice. But the honourable minister who is a Buddhist scholar would certainly understand the depth of deterioration of values among temple authorities as a result of such dishonest and immoral behaviour of authorities who act as guardians of Buddhism. It is high time he takes this matter up with the Mahanayaka theros of all nikayas for immediate remedial action.
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.-Buddha
Significance of Vesak Poya
Prince Siduhath, who later became Buddha was born on a Vesak day. Of all Poya days, the Vesak Poya Day is of highest significance as it marks three main events in the life of Lord Buddha. It was on a Vesak day that enlightenment and the parinibbana of Lord Buddha took place.
This insight and light that flashed and spread out under the Bodhi Tree at Buddha Gaya in Bihar in Northern India, more than 25 centuries ago, is of great significance to man’s destiny. It lighted up the way by which mankind could cross, from a world of superstition, to a new world of light, of true compassion and happiness.
The Teachings of the Buddha are contained in the Four Noble Truths, namely -
The Noble Truth of Dukkha or suffering
The Origin or Cause of suffering
The Cessation of suffering
Path which leads to the cessation of sufferings
The First Noble Truth is the Dukkha which has been generally translated as ‘suffering’. But the term, which represents the Buddha’s view of life and the world, has a deeper rational meaning. Birth, old age, disease and death are universal. All beings are subject to this dissatisfaction. Parting with beloved ones and pleasurable conditions, relationship with unpleasant personnel and conditions, and not getting what one wishes - these are also sources of suffering and dissatisfaction. The Buddha sums up Dukkha in what is known as the Five Grasping Aggregates.
Herein, lies the deeper rational meaning of Dukkha for it encompasses the whole state of being or continuation. The whole process of living is seen as a flux of forces comprising of the five aggregates, namely the Aggregate of Form or the Physical process, Mental Formation, Feeling, Perception, and Consciousness. These are usually classified as mental and physical procedures, which are constantly in a state of flux or transformation. If we train our minds to observe the performance of mental and physical processes we will comprehend the true nature of our lives. We will see how it is subject to transformation and dissatisfaction. And as such, there is no real matter or entity or ‘Self’ which we can cling to as ‘I’, ‘me’ or ‘mine’.
At the age of eighty years, Gautama Buddha had his last supper offered to him by a lady named Sujatha. He inclined on the couch placed between two Sala trees and attained Parinibbana on a Vesak Full Moon Poya Day.
‘It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.’
May all beings be happy!