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Re: [Pali] hello from another new person

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  • DC Wijeratna
    To: Dhammacaari Dhivan, Welcome, (Ayoubovan--May you live long. Traditional greeting from Sri Lanka) Let me introduce myself. I am a traditional Sri Lankan
    Message 1 of 6 , Nov 1, 2007
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      To: Dhammacaari Dhivan,

      Welcome, (Ayoubovan--May you live long. Traditional greeting from Sri Lanka)

      Let me introduce myself.
      I am a traditional Sri Lankan Buddhist, now living in retirement. My motivation for taking up the study of Dhamma--I think what you mean by Early Buddhism--is to practice is. Dhamma for me is not an academic study.

      I am very pleased to learn that you are studying Warder and Gombrich. Two people whom I also admire.

      I am studying at the moment the issue of religious motivation in Buddhism-really in early Buddhism.

      Now to start the discussion. I presume that you became a Buddhist--or underwent a religious conversion. Now, it would be a great favour to me if you can tell me a little about the reason for your conversion. I don't here mean any mystic "conversion". There is one more point I am curious about your "Order". It is called Western Buddhist Order. Is it just a name or you have another interpretation of the Dhamma--Early Buddhism?

      King regards,

      D. G. D. C. Wijeratna

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    • Dhivan Thomas Jones
      Dear Mr Wijeratna, A pleasure to hear from you, and to read about your reasons for studying Pali. I will reply to your questions using this group forum, and I
      Message 2 of 6 , Nov 5, 2007
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        Dear Mr Wijeratna,

        A pleasure to hear from you, and to read about your reasons for
        studying Pali. I will reply to your questions using this group forum,
        and I hope this is OK with everyone, as it is not quite in line with
        the group's purpose and I don't want to presume an interest.

        The 'Western Buddhist Order' is a movement of men and women committed
        to Dharma practice in a somewhat new and experimental form. The Order
        was founded by an Englishman whose Buddhist name is Sangharakshita.
        He was a bhikkhu in India for 20 years, and returned to Britain in
        1964, where he began teaching Buddhism in London. For various reasons
        he decided to try to establish a new Buddhist movement, based on two
        ideas - that the most important thing in Buddhism is going for refuge
        to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and that therefore whether you are
        living as a monk or as a lay person is less important than your going
        for refuge. So in the Western Buddhist Order there aren't monks and
        lay people, just committed Buddhists, some living monastic lives,
        others in families, and a lot in between (like me). The 'Western' bit
        of the name is a bit of a misnomer now, as there are Order members in
        many countries - there are hundreds in India, mainly among the new
        Buddhist converts, and even one in Sri Lanka (near Galle). Our idea
        of Buddhism, or Dharma, in the Western Buddhist Order is not really
        new - many of us are inspired by the Buddhism of the Pali canon - but
        we are eclectic, drawing on the riches of doctrine and practice of
        the whole Buddhist tradition. So some of us practice Tibetan style
        meditation (sadhana) and our puja is Mahayana.

        As for me, I have always been most interested in the Buddhism of the
        Pali canon - I call it 'early Buddhism' because it is historically
        the earliest form of Buddhist, compared for instance to Indian
        Mahayana, or Theravada, or Tibetan Buddhism. It is also of course
        just 'Dhamma', and I only use the phrase 'early Buddhism' to make a
        historical distinction between the Dhamma of the Pali canon and later
        developments. I am definitely a practitioner of Dhamma as well as a
        student of Pali and early Buddhism - but I have an academic mind
        which likes to wrestle with ideas and interpretations of Buddhism,
        and I would not want to say that this is always Dhamma-practice!

        You ask about my conversion - I was brought up as a Roman Catholic
        Christian, but from teenage years I had a strong interest in
        meditation and 'eastern religions'. I learned to meditate with the
        Western Buddhist Order when I was 18, and then spent some time
        practising yoga, learning about Indian religions, and thinking about
        these things. Only when I was 26 did I decide that I was definitely a
        Buddhist and not a Christian or something else. So it was a gradual
        conversion. There are many kinds of Buddhism practised in Britain,
        and many sorts of religious groups, and so there is a lot to sort out
        if one changes religion! It was not easy for me to give up the
        religion of my childhood, which I loved in many ways, but I found
        myself drawn to the teaching and the personality of the Buddha
        irresistibly. I have been a Buddhist now for 15 years and the path
        continues to unfold with increasing richness. In relation to your
        interest in religious motivation, I would say that for me the idea of
        enlightenment has been a tremendous source of motivation for my
        dhamma practice.

        In my opinion it is not necessary to know Pali to be a Buddhist and
        practise Buddhism, as there are good teachers and excellent
        translations in different languages, and anyway learning Pali is
        quite a lot of work of an intellectual sort. But I am doing so
        because I want to get as near as possible to the word of the Buddha,
        as I am sure is the case for yourself and everyone else studying Pali.

        With thanks for your kind interest and best wishes for your studies,
        Dharmacari Dhivan
      • DC Wijeratna
        Dear Dharmacari Dhivan, Thank you very much for your reply. I am much obliged. One little query. What made you get interested meditation and Eastern
        Message 3 of 6 , Nov 8, 2007
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          Dear Dharmacari Dhivan,

          Thank you very much for your reply. I am much obliged.

          One little query. What made you get interested 'meditation' and 'Eastern Religion'. Perhaps studying religion as a subject in an educational institution.

          Religious studies (academic studies) consider faith or belief in the sacred as the motivator of religious behaviour. Do you subscribe to that view? If so, what do you consider as sacred in Buddhism?

          Now I'll tell you a little about myself. My parents were Buddhists. We were taught Buddhist practices by our parents and elders; especially the female members. They go to the temple and we go along with them. They offer flowers. Mother would tell: "Here is a flower, you offer it to the Buddha". Well when we were very small, we would do ti, All of us generally want to please the mother. In a similar manner we would learn the Salutation to the Buddha, the Five precepts and the Three Recollections. At the beginning one word, then two and so on. As far as Dhamma was concerned that was all I knew until adulthood.

          But the education continued at home in a different way. Any transgression of the five precepts were sharply criticized. It is simply things that 'good children do' These were supplemented with Jataka Stories. We never bothered about the historicity of these stories. They were just stories that happened long ago, really when king Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares and so on.
          Not only we were told not to indulge in things like gambling, come home on time and so on.

          The Buddha was the village temple' 'haamuduruwo's' (bhikkhu) teacher's teacher's ...teachers Teacher. "Buddha caritaya" or the 'Life of the Buddha' was the most imprtant story that one had to learn. So he was a human being. But he was the wisest, the kindest and the noblest. That we had absolutely no doubt. He was the kindest because he would never punish us. That was a consequence of your own actions. There were two things that was stressed all the time friendliness (mettaa) and sharing. Here is a little story I remember still. There were five children in a family. For a whole day they had nothing to eat. Then they got a 'weralu' fruit. A small fruit of the size of an olive. I think it belongs to the same family. They cut the fruit into 7 pieces, ate apiece each, and left two for their parents. Our elders would never finish their plate. There will be something left for the dog and the cat. If no cat or dog is available, that would go to feed the crows.
          I hope this gives you a reasonable sketch.

          Academic interest came later.

          From the above account you'll see that studying Pali is not at all a requirement. That is if you wont to study early Buddhist. Dhamma is not there to be studied. It is for practising.

          All the Dhamma you need is in the "sabba paapassa akarana.m". What is considered as evil or sin is common to all the religions.

          Kindest regardd

          D. G. D. C. Wijeratna

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        • Dhivan Thomas Jones
          Dear Mr Wijeratna, Thanks for your message of 9 November. Sorry I have not replied sooner, but it has been a busy time - almost too busy for learning Pali!
          Message 4 of 6 , Nov 26, 2007
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            Dear Mr Wijeratna,

            Thanks for your message of 9 November. Sorry I have not replied
            sooner, but it has been a busy time - almost too busy for learning
            Pali! Thanks for telling us about your Buddhist upbringing. It reminds
            me of how important the religion of our childhood is, and how benign
            and helpful a Buddhist childhood sounds. Actually, I found being
            brought up as a Catholic benign and helpful, but this is not
            everyone's experience.

            You also asked how I became interested in meditation and 'eastern
            religions'. I would say that this is a mysterious thing! But for some
            reason I felt that meditation was important and that I should find out
            about it. I would say that the interest in 'eastern religions' in the
            west is a lot to do with the search for religion without an
            authoritarian God, that is, one which is compatible with the sciences
            and with secularized democratic society. However, my own motivation,
            which you asked about, was for 'enlightenment' - as I understood it,
            or imagined it, at the time - some kind of perfection of the human
            state, a release from confusion and a knowledge of the truth of the
            human situation. I would say that my sense of what enlightenment or
            nirvana might be has changed a lot since those days. I find the
            practice of mindfulness and metta meaningful in themselves and don't
            necessarily think all that much about final realisation as a
            motivation for practise. So I am not sure if I consider anything as
            sacred in Buddhism in the way that you ask. Of course there are
            objects of devotion to which one goes for refuge. What is your opinion?

            All best wishes
            Dhivan
          • DC Wijeratna
            Dear Dhivan, Many thanks for your reply. I appreciate it. Now to your question. So I am not sure if I consider anything as sacred in Buddhism in the way that
            Message 5 of 6 , Nov 28, 2007
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              Dear Dhivan,

              Many thanks for your reply. I appreciate it.

              Now to your question.

              "So I am not sure if I consider anything as sacred in Buddhism in the way that you ask. Of course there are

              objects of devotion to which one goes for refuge. What is your opinion?"

              As far as I am concerned, there is absolutely nothing called 'sacred' in Dhamma. I distinguish between the Dhamma and Buddhism. Dhamma is the teaching of the Buddha. Basically, Dhamma means to me: The Four Noble Truths, The pa.ticchasamuppaada (dependent arising), The three characteristics of existence (anicca, dukkha and anatta). They are all natural laws; the way the things are. We can't pray to any of these things. And none of these things have power over us as such. We are subject to them as much we are subject to gravitation. I don't consider gravitation as sacred.

              So the Dhamma to me does not include the misguided attempt of Abhidhammikas to explain Dhamma through metaphysics. Commentaries are valuable, provided you have intelligence to use them. Take away the abhidhammic explanations and the marvellous and the unbelievable and that they have been authored by fallible human authors, then you can use them.

              Attempts to explain the Dhamma from time of the Mahaasaanghika formation, 118 after the time of the Buddha, have been miserable failures. Today, there are so many cults that sell the name of the Dhamma, with all fancy names and misinterpretations of dhamma.

              I have one more comment about "going for refuge." Our meaning is as follows: the Buddha is Awakened; Dhamma is the Buddha's teaching; Sangha those who have followed the Buddha's path and become ariyas. So when we say 'we go for refuge,' all we are saying is we follow the Path--that is dhammacaari. Devotion we take it in the sense of commitment, determination etc. to follow the path. There is nothing in Dhamma, that you need to BELIEVE; belief and faith are matters for God and his created souls, attaas and so on. Dhamma is a path of discovery. It proceeds from the known to unknown.

              This interpretation of Dhamma as a path from "belief to knowledge," is a total mistake. You need to be careful about science; In science, belief to knowledge is valid. But not when you are looking at absolute knowledge, you can forget about the science and scientific method.

              Only thing we can learn from science is that scientists can't see the "REAL", what the Buddha said 2500 years ago: "avijaa paccayaa sa"nkhaaraa." Delusion conditions the arising of this five-aggregates of grasping, is the only truth and that is the absolute Truth.

              With mettaa,

              D. G. D. C. Wijeratna

              P. S. I addressed you as Dear Dhivan, I wonder whether it is ok with you? I thought I would change it to Dear Dhammacaarii Dhivan. Please let me know which one you prefer.






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