- In your attempt to reach Nirvāna you will need to access your store!
- The practise of dāna, seela, bhavana- has to be combined with shraddha component
Have you ever considered what is in your store? By store, I mean, what you have collected and stacked-up so far – those may be material things that you can touch, feel and see, or those may be things that are not tangible or demonstrable in any palpable way.
I am sure the readers will know what is meant by material things, as we all have this stacked-up everywhere, in cupboards, bookcases, almirahs and any accessible nooks or corners.
But the latter, - meaning those that are intangible – are difficult to define.
However, these are the most important things to take stock of, for our benefit, as we shall see below. Let us examine what these entities are and why they are important.
These days are full-moon days that are notable in the Buddhist calendar as the Vap Poya.
This is the time of heavy rains and the monks retreat to the temples and engage in religious activities, the most important being the presentation of a Katina robe to the most deserving monk who has observed the season’s retreat.
This is the time of heavy rains and the monks retreat to the temples and engage in religious activities, the most important being the presentation of a Katina robe to the most deserving monk who has observed the season’s retreat
This occasion brings the season’s vassāna observances to a close. During the religious activities, lay devotees are instructed on the Buddha Dharma (The Doctrine) by way of sermons and Dharma discussions. They also participate in the three major aspects of Buddhist practice: Dāna (offerings and the art of letting-go), Seela (practice of precepts to improve morality) and Bhāvanā (cultivation of meditation).
Needless to say, during these sessions, one gets the opportunity to contemplate on the here-and-now, as well as one’s sojourn through sansāra (cycles of rebirth). Buddhists believe that “this birth is not the beginning, nor is it the end”, therefore they expect to be reborn in another life form, depending on the merits and demerits they have accrued up to now, in the event that they have not realised emancipation yet. The Four Noble Truths expounded by the Buddha in His First Sermon to the five ascetics leads the way to realise Nirvāna, the ultimate end of this sojourn through sansāra. In your attempt to reach Nirvana you will need to access your store!
This neatly brings into focus the factors that will influence one’s position about achieving this end: we all know that to achieve anything substantial, we have to work diligently at it.
Nirvāna is no exception, as has been described by the Buddha and the masses of Arahants (saints) who have reached Nirvāna.
From my understanding, one will have to aspire to strive to follow The Noble Eightfold Path, which is what the Buddha directed all His followers to adhere to, to reach the ultimate goal of Nirvāna.
So, what’s in your store, then?
If your personal goal is to stop your sojourn through sansara
(in other words, stop rebirth) and reach the status of an Arahant (achieve Nirvāna), then you will need to be serious in practising The Buddha’s Teaching. In this process, you will inevitably develop a broad knowledge of The Dharma, which is essential to help understand reality, which is the way to Nirvāna.
What else will you need?
In your store, you will need to have all those intangible things that you have acquired along the way. For a start, enough experience of Dāna (‘giving’), with the idea of ‘letting go’, thereby reducing Thanhā (attachment), to eradicate it. The acts of dāna, with sentiments of letting-go, would be enhanced by the many offerings you have made, of food, suitable drinks, medicines, clothing (robes, etc.), other requisites (such as soap and razors) and shelter, both during the rainy season or whenever they are needed. The most important fact to remember is that any dāna should be done with shraddhā meaning ‘devotion with wholesome thought’, to comply with the Buddha Dharma, which notes that Chethanā (thought) underlies Karma (resultant). These should invariably be in your store.
As for Seela (moral values/scruples), this will never be out-of-place, as seela represents personal integrity or virtue. These values come with the daily observances of the five precepts and living accordingly. Seela will occupy a large area in your store.
One will have to aspire to strive to follow The Noble Eightfold Path, which is what the Buddha directed all His followers to adhere to, to reach the ultimate goal of Nirvāna
Bhāvanā is a practice that has survived in the world for centuries, particularly in the East. There are a variety of methods, all useful for the development of higher brain function. But the one method that is considered most useful is ‘mindfulness meditation’. This was perfected by The Buddha and as has been mentioned, this technique is said to have taken the Bodhisattva (The Buddha in-the-making) through the process of emancipation right up to Enlightenment. It is extremely popular these days and has taken the world by storm. In Sri Lanka however, more emphasis has always been placed on rituals other than bhāvanā. But this is changing fast and hopefully will bring in many benefits to those who practise Vipassanā, also known as mindfulness meditation. Even a short period of this practice, say 20 minutes at a time, has been found to be very useful and is now advocated in hospitals and medical treatment centres in the world. If you have not yet considered this option, it may now be time to try it. So put this also in your store and you will not regret it.
A word about Shraddhā (devotion/confidence).It is another component that might fill your store. The confidence that the Dharma is reliable and desirable will carry you through the path to liberation. Without shraddha, this will not be possible. So make sure your store is complete with it!
May all beings be well and happy!