Serenity Here and Now

Nirvana the Highest Happiness

  Nirvana le Bonheur Suprême (Nouveau livre)  Texte en français 

The First and Best Buddhist Teachings

New Insights into Buddhism

Buddhist poems by Claudia Weeraperuma


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Serenity Here and Now

The Buddha's Sutta-Nipata Sermons

New Delhi: New Age Books. www.newagebooksindia.com


Dropping All Philosophical Views


The message of the Dutthatthakasutta is that the Sage is truly free because, so to speak, he has said “goodbye and good riddance” to all philosophical systems.


Truly, some ill-wishers

Strongly disapprove of others

Out of malice,

And truthful persons

Also censure others

But only out of goodwill.

But the Sage

Keeps himself aloof

From disputes,

Hence he has

No mental obstruction whatsoever.


How can a desire-driven

And inclinations-enslaved man

Ever go beyond

His wrong views?

For he would speak only

According to the limits

Of his knowledge.


When a man,

Even unasked,

Sings his own praises

By speaking about his holy vows

And good works,

The adepts declare

That he is ignoble.


But the calm and contented monk,

Who is not given to self-praise

By saying ‘so I am’ as regards his virtues,

Who is without any trace of haughtiness,

The adepts declare

That he is noble.


The one whose views are fabricated,

False, prejudiced and impure

To the degree that he has a self-interest

In holding such views,

He would be basing himself on a peace

That is insecure.


Man shelters himself behind

Philosophical dogmas.

After careful consideration,

He chooses one dogma

And rejects another.

Consequently, adopted dogmas

Are difficult to drop.


The pure person

Has no views

Regarding different existences.

Having purified himself

Of deceit and conceit,

Where can he find any shelter?


The person who has become

Entangled in disputes

Is indeed entangled.

But how, and about what,

Could one dispute

With the independent person

Who has disentangled himself

From all disputes?

Concerning views,

He neither clings to,

Nor rejects them,

Having dropped them all.



Can Philosophy Purify Us?

That philosophy is not a help but a hindrance is the theme of the Suddhatthakasutta. There is the unmistakable suggestion that having no views is in fact the right view.


“‘Look! There is the pure person,

Perfect and healthy, made pure

By means of the views he holds!’

Thinking in this way,

One falls back on knowledge,

Hoping thereby to find purity.

If a man’s so-called purification

Took place on account of his

Philosophical views,

Or if he rid himself of suffering

Because of that knowledge,

Then he is ‘pure’ while still retaining

His substrata!

Views are not the truth!

But the Brahmin

Who has detached himself

From what has been seen,

Heard or thought,

From virtue and good works

As well as good and evil,

Who has freed himself

From grasping

And whose actions are devoid

Of karmic consequences,

He does not say that

Purity comes from another.

By giving up a former view

And opting for another,

They do not thereby cease

To cling.

Their ties are not broken.

They hold onto views

And then reject them,

Like a monkey that clutches

Onto one branch

And releases its grip

On another.

The man who practises austerities,

While being attached to

Sensory perception,

Goes in various directions.

But the sage,

Who has great wisdom

And understanding of the Dharma,

He does not go hither and thither.

He is free from

All mental phenomena,

And from all that is seen,

Heard or thought.

So who in the world

Would entertain doubts about him,

Since he has deep insight

And moves about openly?

Neither forming theories

Nor having preferences,

He does not say,

This is the pinnacle of purity’.

Having untied

The knot of attachment,

He never hankers after

Anything in the world.

The true Brahmin

Transcends his limitations.

He does not hold

Onto anything

After knowing or seeing it.

Being free from both

Attachment and detachment,

He grasps at nothing.

The Wisdom of Having No Views

The Paramatthakasutta reiterates the importance of not getting involved in philosophical disputes, which are of no interest whatsoever to the Liberated.


When a self-opinionated person

Regards his views as

The highest’ in the world

In contrast to those of others

That seem inferior to his,

Such a person has failed

To transcend disputes.

Clinging to whatever

He advantageously finds

In what is seen, heard or thought,

Or in virtue and good works,

He rejects everything else

With scorn.

The adepts call that view

A bond,

For it acts as a base

For viewing everything else

As inferior.

Therefore a monk must not depend

On what is seen, heard or thought,

Or upon virtue and good works.

Let him not form

Any view in this world

On account of knowledge,

Virtue or good works.

He should never regard himself as

The equal of another,

Nor as being superior

Or inferior to another.

Giving up

What had been grasped in the past,

And never again grasping,

He thereby ceases

To depend on anything,

Including dependence on knowledge.

When there are persons

With divergent ideas in a dispute,

He does not take sides.

He is free from views.

Having lost the desire

To become this or become that,

Being free from wanting to exist

Either here or in the hereafter,

His mind does not escape into

Any doctrine,

For the mind is no longer given

To clinging.

Concerning things that have been

Seen, heard or felt,

Not even any tiny thought

Does occur to him.

Who in the world can categorise

A Brahmin,

Who does not subscribe to

Any view whatsoever?

Having neither views nor preferences,

Being neither directed nor dominated

By doctrines,

The Brahmin is based

Neither on virtue nor good works.

As he has reached

The farther shore,

Such an individual

Never returns.


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Nirvana the Highest Happiness

Meditations on Buddhist Issues

New Delhi: New Age Books.



Ambapali : A Lady of Pleasure


Whenever a human being with an immoral past becomes a saint it is always a cause for great rejoicing. The news about such a rare event is so inspiring for all seekers. Such a fundamental inner metamorphosis holds out hope for us poor mortals on earth.

Let us consider why Ambapali is held in reverence in the Buddhist world. It was because of Ambapali’s good karma in previous lives that she was reborn as a contemporary of the Buddha. Superficially, hers looked like a pleasant and exciting life but, in reality, it was a deeply troubled one. She showed us the truth that everybody has the innate capacity to transcend the depths of depravity and ascend to the very summit of the mountain top of spirituality. Her life story is fascinating. Why did this wealthy and renowned beauty, who had been enjoying the love and companionship of aristocrats and princes, get very sick and tired of her sorrowful enslavement to the samsaric cycle births and deaths ?

Ambapali was born in the famous city of Vaisali, the capital of the kingdom of the aristocratic and affluent Lichchavis who were not only powerful but also proud. We associate the name of the Buddha with Vaisali because the Enlightened One visited this place several times and spent his last retreat in a nearby village.

Once a gardener of a Lichchavi ruler discovered a baby girl lying under an amba (mango) tree. Naturally the infant was called Ambapali. “Mango-girl” soon became her nickname.

According to tradition, Ambapali had no human parents but came into existence spontaneously. In bygone lives she had not only striven after spiritual perfection but had even been a nun, having entered the order during the ministry of a previous Buddha called Sikhi. Disgusted with birth by means of parents, she was very keen on spontaneous rebirth wherein there is no external human agency whatsoever. That exactly was what took place in her final reincarnation. The gardener who brought the child to the city might not have known about the mysterious circumstances surrounding her birth. Probably the man regarded her as a mere helpless foundling.

It is difficult to provide a simple explanation of her spontaneous origin. All explanations are the product of our fallible minds. Man makes theories, only to become enslaved by them later. Some questions are probably beyond the capacity of the mind to understand. Nevertheless, let us investigate this strange happening. Theists might argue that certain events seem to happen accidentally. They say that this is only an appearance, since they are all in actual fact preordained by an unseen omnipotent Being. Others might maintain that the workings of thought are not at all mysterious but comprehensible to those who understand the law of karma. Ambapali’s strong-willed determination to be reborn in a specified manner was so powerful that she got her wish. The karmic seed that she had sown in a former life simply germinated in a subsequent one.

With the passage of time the girl blossomed into a young woman of great personal charm and beauty. Soon she became the darling of the rich and famous. Powerful and privileged men wooed her. When some of the Lichchavi princes eagerly desired to marry Ambapali, hoping thereby to have exclusive possession of her, it resulted in bitterness, conflicts and fighting.

The theme of men fighting over a woman, which is as old as the hills, inspired Homer’s Iliad of classical times. The kidnapping of Sita by a demon king is the central to the plot of Valmiki’s masterpiece of religious literature The Ramayana. But as far as we know, no prince dared to take Ambapali away, using force. Yet they importuned her with offers of marriage.

The princes tried hard to settle their dispute by peaceful negotiation. Apparently their efforts were depressing and frustrating because of their competing claims to the sole ownership of her. We do not know if Ambapali herself had had any say in this matter, but these tactful men handled the delicate situation with considerable diplomatic skill. They decided to use her equally between them ! Soon the damsel was not exactly a common prostitute but a respectable courtesan who was dispensing sexual favours only to those who were considered socially superior.

Ambapali was not after all such a bad woman because her philanthropic disposition and compassion prompted her to make considerable donations of her wealth to charity. This particular detail is noteworthy since the virtue of Dana (liberality, generosity or almsgiving) is the first in the list of the ten Paramitas (perfections or qualities) that lead to the supreme state of Buddhahood. It is considered possible to whittle away the ego’s urge to cling to things by parting with one’s treasured possessions.

One of Ambapali’s distinguished friends was King Bimbisara of Magadha. He is remembered as the first of the kings who served and supported the Buddha. Once when the king asked the great sage where he would like to reside, the Buddha specified that it should be a pleasant and secluded place that is neither crowded during the day nor too noisy at night. It must also be airy with a minimum of noise wherein it would be possible to live in privacy. Thereupon the king donated to the Buddha his Bamboo Grove with many shady trees. Later in this tranquil Veluvanarama Park the Buddha spent several rainy seasons.

After meeting the famed beauty in person, even this good King Bimbisara, despite his righteousness and the nobility of his mind, succumbed to the temptation to make love to her. Consequently, Ambapali gave birth to a son. The narrative needs to be interrupted now but it will be resumed later.

While going on his final journey with a large number of monks, the Buddha resided temporarily at Vaisali. He stayed at Ambapali’s Mango Grove and gave an address to his retinue of monks. “Be mindful and thoughtful, O bhikkus,” he declared, “whatever you do, always have an alert mind. At all times be watchful when you are eating or drinking, walking or standing, sleeping or being awake, talking or remaining silent.”

The news that the Buddha was staying in her Mango Grove made Ambapali extremely happy. Who would not take this unexpected visit from so exalted a sage as a great blessing ? Wearing a simple dress without any jewellery, she approached the Buddha and respectfully sat near his feet. It is reported that the Buddha thought to himself as follows : “This woman’s heart is tranquil and composed, in spite of her earthly friends and the kings and princes who treat her with special kindness. This maiden is thoughtful and steadfast, although she associates with pleasure-loving persons. What a rare human being ! This wise woman of true piety has the capacity for understanding the Truth in its entirety, despite her life of luxury.” Thereafter he preached her a sermon. Her face lit up as she listened to the Dharma, the liberating teachings of the Enlightened One.

“May I have the honour,” said Ambapali, “of inviting you and the monks for a meal in my home tomorrow ?”

The Buddha indicated his consent by being quiet.

The Lichchavi princes heard that Ambapali was going to have the privilege of entertaining the Buddha in her own home. They reacted to this piece of information in an envious and resentful way. After dressing up in all their finery, the princes mounted their beautiful carriages and proceeded to meet the Buddha in person. But Ambapali in her carriage drove up against them. The two parties confronted each other.

“Ambapali,” they pleaded, “we will give you one hundred thousand gold coins if you allow us to play host to the Blessed One. Let him be our guest instead of yours.”

“No, my lords,” replied Ambapali, “even if you give me the whole of Vaisali and all its territory, I will still not forego this great honour.”

Feeling disappointed but not defeated, the Lichchavi princes then went to meet the Buddha himself. They felt very happy when the Master delivered a religious discourse. Next the princes invited him for a meal at their palace.

“I have already promised to be Ambapali’s guest,” said the Buddha, declining their request. On returning home, the princes were complaining that they had been outdone by a mere mundane maid !

Taking his begging-bowl with him and accompanied by monks, the Buddha went to Ambapali’s residence early in the morning. She served them with sweet rice and cakes and various kinds of good food that had been prepared in her own park. After the meal was over, Ambapali took a low seat beside him and declared, “Lord, I present this Mango Grove to the community of monks that is headed by the Buddha.” He accepted the gift and gave her spiritual instructions.

We have referred to the baby boy who was born in consequence of King Bimbisara’s liaison with his paramour Ambapali. This son became not only the monk Wimala-Kondanna but also an Arhat. It was after listening to an inspiring sermon preached by this great son of hers that Ambapali decided to enter the order of nuns. She subsequently became an Arhat herself. It is ironic indeed that the very human being who came into existence because of Ambapali’s sexual promiscuity was indirectly instrumental in her own Liberation from the shackles of samsara and karma.

What precipitated her attainment of Nirvana ? She took as her subject of meditation the perishable nature of her physical organism.

After hearing a discourse by her son, the Arhat Wimala-Kondanna, Ambapali decided not only to become a nun but also to meditate on the transient nature of her body. This sadhana helped her to understand the law of impermanence --- Anicca.

Although the consensus of opinion is that this particular spiritual practice was the immediate reason and the single most important factor in her attainment of Liberation, one should not ignore the fact that she had been preparing for this Freedom in her previous lives. There is usually a long chain of karmic causes leading to the penultimate stage before Enlightenment. It is necessary to reiterate the point that it was her good karma of past lives that enabled her to be reborn during the lifetime of the Buddha and thereby benefit from personal contact with the Teacher. Even the son she bore became a disciple of the Buddha and later blossomed into an Arhat. It is debatable whether it was the Buddha or her own son who served as the catalyst for her inner Transformation; but on the other hand, it can be argued that it was nothing but her own assiduously practised sadhana that precipitated her Nirvana. Questions relating to why some succeed or fail in their spiritual quest are difficult to answer, but suffice it to say that these riddles are probably beyond the ken of man. Probably as soon as we become Arhats, if we ever do, we might find the right answers.

In the following excerpts from The Songs of the Sisters by Usula P. Wijesuriya, which consists of adaptations of Theri Gatha or Psalms of the Sisters, one can hear the voice of Ambapali who contemplates, among other subjects, the ephemeral nature of her once enchanting body :


Many aeons ago, in the time of Buddha Sikhi,

Ambapali was an elder nun in his order.

She and the sisters were paying homage to the Bodhi

When one sneezed, spraying spittle on the tree.

Which whore did that ?” demanded Pali,

Maligning the noble sisterhood.

She paid for this insult birth after birth,

In the guise of a courtesan, desired but cheap.

In the time of Buddha Gautama

She appeared ‘neath a mango tree,

Her glory surpassing the proud sun at dawn,

Her grace --- the swans or woodland fawn;

For she had wished in many past lives

That she be of no mother born.

Her suitors outnumbered bees on honeyed blooms

Or the leaves on her mango tree,

Until the king decreed that she

Would be the hired plaything of the realm.

Her only son, Wimala Kondanna by name,

Followed the Buddha and graced the yellow robe.

He came to tell his mother the selfless love he’d known

And bid her follow him to the Lord.

Ambapali --- the love goddess of the state

Approached the Buddha, whose compassionate gaze

Stirred her, as no sensual gaze of prince or merchant

Ever did. And she on her knees prayed

May I be of your order --- dressed in rough shroud robe ?

Accept my mango grove, o sire,

May it be a haven for such as me

Who at last has learnt that life’s a dream.”

Sister Ambapali sat in rapt contemplation,

Of the change the thievish years had wrought

On her once dazzling beauty --- and of her power

To lure prince and pauper in the wiles of love.

Years ago my hair was lustrous black,

Framing my face in tasseled curls.

Today it hangs like limp and listless hemp

The Buddha’s truth of impermanence is here.

There was a day, when my hair

Dressed in perfumes and flowers,

Combed to silken perfection,

Trained with jewelled pins,

Lured the mighty of this land.

But now --- the musty smell of age

Pervades it. The thick locks gone,

And rats’ tails would a comparison make.

There was a day --- when poets sang

To my rainbow eyebrows. When artists dreamed

Of their perfect arch.

Today they squiggle in a myriad wrinkles

Over forehead, cheek and chin.

What dimmed the lustre in my limpid eyes ?

Where went the youthful nose so delicate and fine ?

My ear lobes adorned with golden drops and beads

Now reduced to bone and shrivelled skin..

There was a day when my white and sparkling teeth

Smiled alluringly on princes of the realm,

But who would greet me now

Gap-toothed and yellow, like a broken fence.

My voice outdid the nightingale’s

Love songs on moonlit nights;

But now it quavers, querulous and old,

Can I but speak --- to tell you all I’ve learnt.

My graceful neck --- the wild swans envied me,

Rivalled the smoothness of conches on sea beds.

Today, wrinkled and bent

I croak my message. This is the inevitable truth.

My arms so molded --- alabaster smooth were they,

Now like withered stalks they hang.

My hands --- smooth, soft, adorned with rings,

Claws of decrepit birds to mem’ry brings.

My rounded breasts, so firm, so soft, so full,

Swan like uplifted, claimed proud womanhood.

Now hang they empty between the ribs

Like strainers when the sap is fled.

My body --- golden hued and warm,

Now a mass of scales and flabid flesh.

My thighs, once likened to elephant trunks

Are no more than crushed and splintered sugar cane.

Where are my ankles which danced to tinkling tunes

Drawn from jewelled anklets and silver bells.

Where are my feet --- soft as silken pads

Now cracked and palsied. I painfully limp.

Such is this form, that age will surely spoil,

Such is fleeting beauty, pillaged by creeping years

Moving on silent feet.

This body, once the envy of the land

Is no more than a house of clay with peeling walls.

Sister Ambapali reached realisation one day

Absorbing all knowledge through the three fold way,

Non-returner was she, before her days were done,

Temptress of an empire --- Nibbana won..


Instead of making vain attempts to speculate about the Imperishable, Buddhists try to understand the fact that they are strongly attached to perishable things. While meditating on their sad plight, they realise that it is their craving for the perishable that prevents them from realising the Imperishable. One cannot think about the Imperishable. Neither can it be sought after nor invited.

Buddhist philosophers have wisely avoided trying to describe Nirvana. Is it really possible to describe it with anything like accuracy ? Any description of Nirvana will only remain a mass of meaningless words, except for Arhats who have actually attained that exalted state. Seeing the impossibility of conveying the details of his attainment, the Buddha approached the question negatively by stating what Nirvana is not.That abode,” declared the Buddha, “is unborn, uncreated, unmanifested and unconditioned.”

Is there anything in the entire universe that never changes and lasts forever? Even the sun and the stars will someday burn themselves out. Is there any living being that is not subject to decay and death ? All things and all beings have a transitory existence and hence are impermanent. Ambapali perfectly comprehended the doctrine of Anicca (impermanence).

Not only the external world but also the inner world of consciousness is caught up in a whirlpool of ceaseless alteration. Past memories, thoughts, feelings and sensations keep vying with one another to rise to the surface. Thoughts come and go with lightning speed so that it is extremely difficult to keep pace with even a few of them. The constituent elements of consciousness race across the substratum of pure awareness, creating in the process the illusion of “mind”. The bundle of thoughts, collectively taken, give the fictitious impression that there is such a definite and concrete thing as the mind.

Just as illusory as the concept of “mind” is the concept of “I”. Whereas both “mind” and “I” appear to exist, in actual fact they are made up of different elements. “Mind” and “I” are only aggregations which by themselves have no real and independent existence.

According to the doctrine of Anatta (no-self), there is no permanent self-existing ego either within the ever-changing bodily and mental phenomena or outside them. This teaching is closely related to the above-mentioned principle of Anicca (impermanence). Since the ego is only a temporary grouping together of attributes, it does not actually exist in itself. There is a popular Buddhist maxim that there are in fact only bad qualities, but not bad people. The feeling “I am” or “I exist” is the prime cause of our samsaric bondage. We are foolishly inclined to believe that the “I” is the doer; that it is the “I” that suffers; that the “I” treats others kindly or unkindly; that the “I” is reborn after death; and finally, that the “I” finds Liberation.


This doctrine has been clearly explained in the Buddhist classic Visuddhi Magga (Path of Purity) :



There is suffering but no sufferer;

There are deeds but no doer of deeds;

Nirvana is, but not one who enters it;

The path is, but no traveller thereto.


Anatta or egolessness is the central teaching of Buddhism. Whereas many Buddhist teachings can be found in other philosophies and religious systems, this particular doctrine is the distinguishing feature of Buddhism. Consequently, the Buddha has been called the Anattavadi or the Teacher of Impersonality.

Now, Ambapali’s painful awareness that her body was no longer sexually attractive and aesthetically beautiful enabled her to have practical experience of the Noble Truth of Suffering (Dukkha); by contemplating the distressingly shocking changes that her once-charming body had undergone, the law of impermanence (Anicca) dawned upon her; and ultimately, her crowning understanding that there was absolutely nothing within her entire body or mind that did not fade away and die, made it possible for Ambapali to grasp the profound truth relating to no-self or egolessness (Anatta). She saw with great clarity that everything within her whole body and mind must sooner or later end up in nothingness for nothing is permanent. Thus the imperishable peace of Nirvana came by Ambapali.

It is a truism that the only thing certain in life is death. That man is mortal is a distressing fact of life that we have to come to terms with sooner or later. Has anyone achieved the state of physical immortality ? Although it is possible to prolong life, as every intelligent person should, through having the right diet and practising hatha yoga, including pranayama, has any human being ever succeeded in escaping from the jaws of death ? As soon as we leave the womb we are destined to the tomb, and during the intervening period the inexorable process of decaying and ageing keeps going on from moment to moment. Why then do people nowadays want to disguise their decrepitude by undergoing expensive cosmetic surgery ? Why bother using any make-up ? Why this desire to decorate this dirty and dying lump of flesh and bones ?

Buddhists who are serious strive to free themselves from attachment to their bodies. They practise The Meditation on the Five Components of the Body, understanding that the body is just a temporary conglomeration of separate constituent elements that can all fall apart at any moment and result in death :


Matter is similar to a lump of foam,

Sensations are comparable to bubbles,

Perception is analogous to a mirage,

Mental factors are somewhat the same as a banana plant

And consciousness is like an illusion..


Much in the same vein, they also practise Meditation on the Impurities of the Body, realising that genuine renunciation of the world consists in freedom from bodily cravings :

This body of mine consists of hair of my head, hair of my body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, stomach, excrement, brain, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, lymph, tears, serum, saliva, nasal mucous, synovial fluid and urine.

Much more precious than skin-deep beauty is the inner beauty of saints who have cast aside their egos. Thus purified, they have found freedom from resentments. Untroubled by negative thoughts and emotions that originate in fear, worry, anger, jealousy, hatred, malice, violence or spite, they radiate an elusive beauty that has an ethereal quality. No words can describe the immense beauty and inner peace that radiated from Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi’s austere face and eyes. Deep was his absorption in the Eternal. Being so detached from mundane matters, he most probably considered his external appearance too trivial.

The Early Christians were remarkable in that they shunned the things of the world and led extremely simple lives. It is significant that they were not outward-looking but inward-looking. Why did Jesus denounce the teachers of the law and the Pharisees ? Let us reflect deeply upon the following resounding rebuke from Jesus :

You are similar to whitewashed tombs that appear beautiful on the outside but on the inside you are full of the bones of dead men and everything that is unclean (Matthew 23 : 27).

The advent of old age can be painfully unbearable for the vain, especially for famously beautiful actors, dancers or film stars who were once the cynosure of admiring and eager eyes. Looking back with nostalgia to their early years, they regret that they are no longer in the limelight. Some of them, alas, have even chosen to commit suicide instead of accepting the fact that their bodies and faces are no longer smooth and charming but rather wrinkled. They have needlessly suffered and paid dearly for their vanity. Nevertheless, inner peace and joy would surely have been theirs had they only ceased to pride themselves on their outward appearance, which in turn would have been the natural consequence of understanding the great and fundamental law of impermanence (Anicca). That all constituted things are in a state of perpetual flux or continual change is a cardinal feature of Buddhism.

There are two main reasons for modern man’s moral and spiritual degeneracy : first, the growing popularity of the materialist view of life, according to which there is no spiritual world whatsoever since the only reality is physical matter ; second, the hedonistic attitude that pleasure is the highest good which alone has ultimate value. In a sense our so-called civilisation has been nothing more than a desperate search for different degrees and forms of pleasure. So great is the emphasis on pleasure that, needless to say, people have become very attached to their bodies. One unfortunate consequence is that they seldom, if ever, ask themselves the following questions : Am I this body ? Why am I attached to it ? Is there nothing other than this physical organism with its never-ending, ever-changing chain of thoughts and emotions ?

In the Apadana one can find a victorious declaration attributed to Ambapali :



By treading the Buddha’s path

I’ve found the indestructible state.

A real daughter of him am I.

I remember my past lives,

Pure is the superhuman eye,

Being thoroughly cleansed within,

There is no more becoming.


Does Buddhism Condone or Condemn Meat Eating ?

Eating meat was widely prevalent in India during the days of the Buddha. Yet there were certain religious sects such as the Niganthas whose commitment to the doctrine of harmlessness and non-injury (Ahimsa) was such that they abstained from meat altogether.

Jivaka, a vegetarian monk, asked the Buddha whether the consumption of meat was in accordance with his teachings. The Buddha is reported to have said that, provided animals were not seen, heard or suspected to have been specially killed for a monk, their meat may be eaten. The killing of living creatures for an Enlightened Teacher or his disciples results in the formation of demerit or bad karma. Presumably, then, the only permissible kinds of meat should be from animals that have either not been specially slaughtered for monks or whose deaths were caused by accident, illness or old age.

According to the Jivaka Sutta the Buddha declared that there are three instances in which meat must not be eaten --- when it is seen, heard or suspected that a living being has been killed for a monk. In other words, meat may be eaten when it is not seen, not heard, and not suspected that a living being has been killed for a monk. Although this disciplinary rule applies only to monks, it is often taken to be applicable to all laypersons also.

For his survival a monk depends on the food he is offered. With a mind replete with loving-kindness, he spreads goodwill in all directions. So exalted is his inner state that the monk is devoid of hostility and ill-will. He radiates loving-kindness to one and all. His all-embracing compassion has no frontiers. It is everywhere, above, below and around. What has been described is, or should be, a monk’s inner state.

A householder or a householder’s son would extend to the monk an invitation to a meal. Carrying his begging bowl and outer robe, the monk would go to the host’s house and take the seat that has been prepared for him. Next the guest monk is served with good food. Then the monk does not think “How good it is that my hosts serve me with good food ! If only they serve me with such good food again !” Such negative and greed-driven thoughts do not, or should not, occur to him. But he partakes of the food without growing attached to it, without greed and without enthusiasm for food, for he sees the danger of attachment to anyone or anything and he also understands the importance of transcending all attachments

In the Jivaka Sutta the Buddha taught that, whoever slaughters any living being for the Buddha or his disciples produces demerit in the following five instances : First, when he says “Go and bring me that living being” ; Second, when the creature experiences pain and distress in the course of being led along with a thong that afflicts its throat; Third, when he says “Go and kill it” ; Fourth, when the animal experiences pain and grief as it is being killed ; Fifth, when he offers the Buddha and his disciples with the above-mentioned food which is not permitted.

Do Buddhist monks nowadays take the trouble to enquire whether an animal was killed on purpose for them before eating its meat ? They surely cannot be unaware of the fact that nearly all the available meat for consumption in modern cities comes from abattoirs. Since the monks are part and parcel of that particular group of meat consumers, does it not follow that the meat they devour with such relish was specially made available for them also ?

In most countries there are special shops in towns and villages that have in stock special supplies of meat and fish. Such special supplies are regularly or periodically made available for sale only because there is a special demand from special groups of meat-eaters such as householders, restaurants, hotels, monks and the like. If there were no special demand for meat and fish, there would be no special supplies of them either.

Let us examine a situation wherein a man buys meat or fish in a shop casually, without first having placed a special order for them. Could such a consumer escape the karmic consequences of consuming what he bought ? The customer, mark you, never made a special request for meat. Even so, it is probable that the customer incurs karmic responsibility because the customer in this case could not have been unaware of the fact that the shopkeeper had made a special effort to have additional meat and fish for unexpected clients such as himself who casually visit his shop.

If the only reason that makes me refrain from directly or indirectly killing animals for food is the fear that such actions result in the accumulation of demerit (akusala karma), then does it not indicate that I am not inspired by a compassionate concern for the suffering experienced by animals that are slaughtered, but rather by my egoism which is craving for so-called spiritual progress ?

Let us remind ourselves of the First Precept of the Five Precepts (Panca Sila) that the vast majority of Buddhists recite frequently in a parrot fashion. Some love to recite them in public in order to create a very favourable impression of themselves, eagerly wanting the world to regard them as deeply religious persons ! The very first moral precept is as follows : “I take the precept to abstain from the destruction of living beings” (Panati-pata veramani sikkha padam samadiyami).By taking the first precept, it is very clear that a true Buddhist resolves never to kill, which necessarily implies that one also resolves never to be a party to any deed involving the killing of a living being, regardless of whether the act of killing is done by oneself directly or done indirectly, by another person (such as a butcher or a fisherman) , on behalf of oneself.

Since such so-called Buddhists are painfully conscious that the first precept of their great religion is “I accept the precept not to kill”, they hypocritically try to absolve themselves from all moral blame by imagining that they are not vicariously responsible for the destruction of life. For Buddhists, who eat fish, flesh and fowl, justify their degenerate dietary practices by resorting to the specious argument that it is the poor fisherman, butcher or hunter who is solely responsible for all the killing ! Hence it is maintained that demerit (akusala karma) is acquired only by those engaged in the actual act of killing ! These Buddhists are callously indifferent to the fact that they are encouraging these unfortunate groups of persons to amass unfavourable karma in the course of their occupations and thereby prolonging their misery in the cycle of births and deaths (samsara).

The eaters of meat and fish, instead of themselves doing the very disgusting work of killing, which would inevitably result in the creation of unfavourable karma, get others to do the killing on their behalf ! Can they really free themselves from karmic guilt by participating in killing by proxy ? Non-vegetarian Buddhists, alas, fail to understand that the wicked and immoral crime of killing still remains an immoral crime, regardless of whether it is committed by the non-vegetarians themselves or the paid professional killers who serve them.

Although the letter of the teachings permits meat eating under certain circumstances, its spirit is somehow more in harmony with vegetarianism than non-vegetarianism. Given the great importance that the Buddha attached to loving-kindness to all living beings, it is a great pity that he failed to enjoin the members of his Order and lay disciples to avoid meat under all circumstances. We have seen that he allowed the eating of meat only when an animal had not been specially slaughtered. For the helpless animals that are subjected to the agony of slaughter, does it make much difference whether they are being specially killed or otherwise ?

Regarding vegetarianism, let us examine whether or not there is a moral contradiction in the teachings of the Buddha.

Those who frown on vegetarianism like to quote from the Amaganda Sutta. The word “amaganda” means “the stench emanating from fish and meat”. When a brahmin confronts the Buddha and proceeds to refer to the bad and dangerous consequences of eating fish and flesh, the Buddha counters by referring at length to what he regards as the real moral defilements, such as anger, intoxication, deceit, envy, pride, non-payment of debts, slandering and the like. The list is quite long. There are a number of verses that specify some moral defilements. Most of the verses end with the recurring words --- “…this is the defilement (i.e. moral defilement) from which the stench emanates, not the eating of meat”. For example, “If any are without pity, given to backbiting, harming friends, heartless, proud, lacking in generosity --- these are the defilements from which the stench emanates, not the eating of meat”(verse 244).

When one reads the Amaganda Sutta for the first time, it gives a superficial impression of being an attack on vegetarianism. In a sense that is so ; however, its underlying message is very clear --- a vegetarian diet, though never explicitly disallowed, is by itself just not good enough. A pure diet of vegetarian food will always remain very unsatisfactory, unless there is psychological purity as well. It is quite meaningless to live on meatless food, and to regard such a practice as a sign of purity, if one has psychological impurities at the same time.

Devadatta is frequently remembered in the Buddhist world as the Buddha’s cousin. He later became the Buddha’s rival and arch-enemy. He decided to confront the Master by making demands for the reform of the Order of monks (Sangha).

Devadatta insisted upon the following five reforms :

First, that monks should spend their lives in forests ;

Second, that monks must live solely on alms, even refusing invitations from laypersons for meals ; Third, that monks must wear rags ;

Fourth, that monks must live under trees and never enter rooms ;

Fifth, that monks must abstain from fish and meat.

The last of his proposals was a plea for the consumption of vegetarian food. On the whole Devadatta was requesting a return to the ascetic life of forest-dwelling mendicants.

Much to Devadatta’s displeasure, the Buddha turned down his package deal. This decision of the Buddha has frequently been misconstrued as a rejection of vegetarianism. What the Buddha rejected was the package deal : it was a case of accepting all the proposals or rejecting them in toto. Had Devadatta pressed only for vegetarianism, leaving aside his other four proposals, it probably would have been granted. Therefore the Buddha’s decision on this occasion was not necessarily an indication of his opposition to the practice of vegetarianism.

It is necessary to consider this question from what might have been the standpoint of the Buddha. Under the circumstances he had to reject the package deal which, if implemented, would have meant the eradication of the monastic system that the Buddha was keen on upholding. Had the Buddha accepted Devadatta’s fourth proposal that monks must live under trees and never enter rooms, this idea would have dealt a serious blow to the monastic system.

The Buddha was not against the widely prevalent practice of meditating in the solitude of forests. He encouraged it. At the same time, the Buddha wanted to encourage the development of monasteries for monks. He allowed the donation of parks for the establishment of religious communities wherein monks were able to meditate indoors. Not every monk has the physical stamina to live alone in a forest, especially in roofless conditions. A case in point is the poor health of the old and frail monks. It became the practice for monks to seek shelter and protection against the elements, particularly during the monsoons. Even the wandering Jain ascetics, who at first were forest dwellers, later settled for a monastic system.

Nowadays monks, be they Buddhist or Jain, have the freedom to lead their lives in forests, if that is what they wish to do. What the Venerable Sariputta , the chief disciple of the Buddha, had to say about this matter is noteworthy : “For the person whose senses are restrained, being under a roof or in a forest is immaterial, for he can meditate anywhere”.

It is necessary to emphasise the fact that during the final phase of his long and illustrious life, the Buddha categorically condemned the consumption of meat.

In the Sanskrit version of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra the Buddha declared : “I instruct the disciples that from today onwards they should stop the eating of meat”.

This important instruction is mysteriously missing in the Pali version of this sutra ! Therefore some commentators have questioned the authenticity of the Sanskrit version and even suggested that this particular statement has been interpolated into this sutra. On the contrary, there is good reason to suspect that this significant saying has been deliberately deleted from the Pali version by non-vegetarians who relish the taste of meat.

After a monk has reluctantly renounced the delights of social life, stifling his longing for hearth and home and the passing excitements of sexual indulgence, if any, what else is left to sustain him psychologically during the solitary years of monastic life ? As the joyless recluse has so far failed to find the bliss of Enlightenment, he naturally tends to regard the plate of meat as the only remaining pleasure ! Those who crave for even a small slice of meat would feel inclined to bend the rules so that they could satisfy that craving and thereby assuage their deep-seated animalistic instinct for flesh. Man is an animal at heart, which explains this urge to rationalise his violence and anger (Dosa) and especially the wild passion to eat the filthy flesh of dead animals. Over the centuries what strange reasons have been adduced to support greed (Tanha ), especially the greed for animal flesh ! Rather than eat curried carcasses, why not live on a healthy vegetarian diet consisting of milk, cheese, yoghurt, nuts, cereals, grains, herbs, fruits and vegetables ? Calm-inducing vegetarian food would be much more in accord with an austere lifestyle than the passion-arousing food of carnivorous creatures such as dogs and cats ; besides, it will combat the tendency of many a monk to become obese and lazy.

The Lankavatara Sutra consists of advice given by the Buddha to the Bodhisattva Mahamati on the abandonment of the craving for meat. In this sutra a strong case has been made out for vegetarianism. Of the 24 principal arguments that have been advanced against the eating of meat, the following one are striking :

Meat is the food of the carnivorous and its smell is nauseating. I tell you this, Mahamati, do not eat it. Eating meat is non-meritorious: avoiding it is meritorious. Mahamati, you should understand the harmful effects that meat-eaters bring down on themselves.”

The yogi must refrain from eating flesh as he himself originated in flesh and also because the killed have to suffer in terror.”

Meat eating results in arrogance, which causes erroneous thoughts, which in turn results in greed. The mind is stupefied by greed. Afterwards there is attachment to stupefaction and hence no release from the cycle of births and deaths.”

Sentient beings are slaughtered for profit by people. Others buy the flesh. Both parties are evil-doers whose misdeeds will produce bad results in hell.”

The eating of flesh is contrary to the words of the Awakened One. Flesh-eaters are evil-minded. Such evil-doers are destined for the most horrible hell.”

No meat can be considered as being pure, even in these three respects --- not planned or thought about beforehand, not requested and not forced. Therefore refrain from flesh-eating.”

Meat-eating is forbidden by me and by the Buddhas. Sentient beings who eat one another will be reborn as carnivorous animals.”

Meat-eaters stink. They deserve no respect. They lack intelligence.”

The Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Sravakas condemn meat-consumption.”

Those avoiding meat will be reborn as brahmins or yogis and endowed with knowledge and riches.”

Craving is just as much an obstacle to Enlightenment as meat-eating and taking alcohol.”

In the future there might be people who foolishly remark, It is proper to eat meat and it is unobjectionable. The Buddha permitted it’.”

For all who are compassionate I forbid meat-eating at all places and at all times. Meat-eaters will be reborn as lions, tigers, wolves and the like.”

Therefore refrain from meat-eating as it will result in feelings of extreme fear. It will also be a hindrance to Emancipation. Such abstinence is the hallmark of the wise.”

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

For centuries various Buddhists and Buddhist scholars have furiously debated whether the grave illness that preceded the Buddha’s death was precipitated by the eating of pork (as the non-vegetarians maintain), or , by the eating of truffles (as the vegetarians insist). Probably the truth of the matter might always remain obscure or unknown. Indeed the available records of the Buddha’s life and sayings are shrouded in a mist of legends, interpolations and deletions. But sometimes bright rays of light manage to penetrate the mist and give us an inkling of what the original teaching might have been, such as the following lines from The Dhammapada :


All fear the rod ; all fear death.

Taking this into account,

One should neither kill nor cause to kill”

(verse 129)

All fear the rod ; life is dear to all.

Taking this into account,

One should neither kill nor cause to kill”

(verse 130)


Therefore is it not incumbent upon every conscientious person to eat only such food in the production of which “one neither kills nor causes to kill” ?


There is abundant evidence that the Buddha, when he was a man of advanced years, denounced the practice of meat eating. That is the message for posterity from the Mahaparinirvana Sutra and the Lankavatara Sutra. Why did the Buddha do a complete about-turn in this matter before he passed away ? Evidently he realised that he had been mistaken. It is indeed a tribute to the Buddha’s humility, honesty and integrity that he corrected himself. He thereby gave new guidelines relating to food for the benefit of both monks and laypersons.

The question as to whether or not meat should be consumed is very controversial. There are Buddhist texts that justify the consumption of meat but only if certain conditions are met. But the Lankavatara Sutra and the Dhammapada are highly critical of the heartless practice of killing animals for food. The Lankavatara Sutra eloquently denounces non-vegetarianism in no uncertain terms.

What is the standard by which one should evaluate the evidence ? In a situation of this kind, must one stick to the letter of the texts or try to enter into the spirit of the teachings ?

Any thought, word or deed that directly or indirectly results in the destruction of life is surely contrary to the spirit of Buddhism where much emphasis is placed on purity, non-violence, compassion and respect for life. One must therefore challenge the authenticity of all texts that are clearly contrary to the aforementioned spirit of the teachings. The spirit of the Dharma is heavily weighted in favour of vegetarianism.

It is deplorable that so few are moved by the plight of the poor, innocent and helpless animals that non-vegetarians thoughtlessly devour. These pitiful creatures might well have been their former friends or dear departed relations of previous existences. Do animal-eaters realise that the tasty pieces of fish, mutton, beef or chicken that they enjoy eating might well have come from the cruel slaughter of animals that had once been their loved ones of long-forgotten past lives ? Are they aware that they are in a sense practising cannibalism ? Do they feel even an iota of sympathy for the suffering animals that are either expecting to be slaughtered or being slaughtered ? Therefore is it not important that those who have callously lived on such dreadful diets should consider this issue carefully ? When doing so, they should bear in mind the supreme importance of having the great virtues of loving-kindness (Metta) and compassion (Karuna) for not only humans but non-humans also.

Metta and Karuna are two of the four Sublime or Divine Abodes (Brahma-Vihara). It is in fact the all-embracing and boundless love for all sentient beings, which of course includes the various unfortunate animals that end up on our dining tables.

Much can be said in support of living on meatless meals, yet vegetarianism is much more than a mere ideology that upholds all animals’ right to life. People are vegetarians for a thousand different reasons, but vegetarianism becomes an expression of our spirituality only when it is inspired by loving-kindness and compassion. Vegetarianism, in other words, will have the quality of sublime spirituality only when it springs from the purified inner states of loving-kindness (Metta) and compassion (Karuna).

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Nirvana  le Bonheur  Suprême


   Paris: Editions EDILIVRE APARIS







Cet ensemble d’essais bien documentés et lucides est le résultat d’une vie de méditation sur les sujets discutés du bouddhisme.  Quoiqu’il écrive principalement du point de vue du Theravada, ancienne forme de bouddhisme pratiquée au Sri Lanka, en Birmanie, en Thaïlande et au Cambodge, Weeraperuma exprime des opinions qui s’éloignent parfois du courant traditionnel, en citant par exemple le Lankavatara Sutra, un texte Mahayana, pour soutenir le végétarisme. Ces pages constituent un ouvrage marquant parmi les écrits traitant de ce sujet du fait des nombreuses observations agréablement originales de son auteur.

Ambapali : une femme de plaisir

Lorsqu’un être humain au passé trouble devient un saint, il y a lieu de se réjouir. La nouvelle d’un événement si rare inspire ceux ou celles qui rêvent de cet état. Un tel changement nous donne de l’espoir, à nous autres pauvres mortels.

Voyons pourquoi Ambapali est révérée dans le monde bouddhiste. C’est en raison du bon karma de ses vies antérieures qu’elle renaquit en contemporaine du Bouddha. Elle paraissait mener une vie passionnante et agréable, mais son existence était sordide. Elle a montré que chacun est capable de transcender la dépravation et d’atteindre le sommet de la spiritualité. L’histoire de sa vie est édifiante. Pourquoi cette beauté riche et renommée, qui aimait la compagnie des princes et des nobles, s’est-elle fatiguée du triste esclavage du cycle samsarique de la naissance et de la mort ?

Ambapali naquit à Vaisali, capitale du royaume des aristocratiques et riches Licchavis, qui n’étaient pas seulement puissants, mais aussi orgueilleux. Nous associons le nom du Bouddha à celui de Vaisali parce qu’il a visité la ville plusieurs fois et qu’il s’est retiré dans un village voisin.

Un jour le jardinier d’un dirigeant  Licchavi découvrit un bébé sous un amba (manguier). Naturellement, on appela la petite fille Ambapali (la fille manguier).

La tradition nous dit qu’Ambapali était née spontanément, elle n’avait pas de parents. Au cours de ses vies passées, elle avait non seulement recherché la perfection spirituelle, mais avait même été religieuse, étant entrée dans les Ordres pendant le sacerdoce d’un ancien bouddha appelé Sikhi. Elle était dégoûtée d’une naissance normale, aussi aspirait-elle à une renaissance spontanée sans aucun intermédiaire humain extérieur. Ce fut le cas de sa réincarnation finale. Le jardinier qui rapporta l’enfant en ville ne pouvait pas connaître les circonstances mystérieuses de sa naissance. Il la considéra simplement comme une enfant trouvée.

Il est difficile de trouver une explication simple à son apparition spontanée. Toutes les explications proviennent de notre esprit faillible. L’homme crée des théories pour en devenir l’esclave plus tard. Certaines questions dépassent l’entendement humain. Examinons néanmoins ce fait étrange. Des déistes avancent que certains événements semblent se passer accidentellement. Ils déclarent qu’il s’agit seulement d’apparence puisque ces événements sont en réalité pré-ordonnés par un être omnipotent invisible. D’autres soutiennent que les détours de la pensée ne sont pas mystérieux mais compréhensibles pour ceux qui entendent les lois du karma. La volonté d’Ambapali de renaître comme elle le souhaitait était si forte que son souhait se réalisa. La graine de karma qu’elle avait semée dans une vie antérieure avait germé dans une autre vie.

Les années passèrent et la jeune fille se transforma en une jeune femme belle et charmante qui devint la coqueluche des gens célèbres et riches. Elle fut courtisée par les hommes puissants et privilégiés. Quand des princes Licchavis désirèrent l’épouser dans l’espoir de la garder pour eux seuls, il en résulta de l’amertume, des conflits et des combats.

Le thème qui représente des hommes se battant pour une femme, thème aussi vieux que le monde, inspira Homère dans l’Iliade. L’enlèvement de Sita par le roi des démons constitue le cœur du chef-d’œuvre de la littérature religieuse, le Ramayana, de Valmiki. Mais à notre connaissance aucun prince n’osa enlever Ambapali par la force. Cependant ils la harcelèrent de demandes en mariage.

Les princes tentèrent de partager l’objet de leur convoitise par la négociation. Apparemment leurs efforts furent déprimants et frustrants à cause de leurs prétentions antagoniques à la possession d’Ambapali. Nous ignorons si Ambapali avait eu son mot à dire, mais ces hommes pleins de tact menèrent la négociation avec beaucoup de diplomatie. Ils décidèrent de se la partager équitablement ! Ainsi la demoiselle n’était pas exactement une prostituée ordinaire, mais une courtisane respectable qui distribuait ses faveurs à ceux que l’on considérait comme socialement supérieurs.

Après tout, Ambapali n’était pas si mauvaise parce que son penchant philanthropique et sa compassion la poussaient à faire des dons considérables de sa richesse aux pauvres. Ce détail particulier est important puisque la vertu de Dana (libéralité, générosité ou don d’aumônes) est la première des dix Paramitas (qualités ou achèvements) menant à l’état suprême de bouddha. Il est possible de diminuer son propre penchant à s’attacher aux choses, en se séparant de ses biens.

Le roi Bimbisara était un des amis distingués d’Ambapali. Il était le premier des rois qui servaient et aidaient le Bouddha. Un jour le roi demanda au grand sage où il aimerait vivre. Le Bouddha spécifia que l’endroit devrait être agréable et retiré, sans trop de foule, ni trop bruyant la nuit. Il devrait être aéré, les bruits y devraient être limités autant que possible, et il y serait possible de vivre en toute intimité. Sur ce, le roi fit don de sa forêt de bambous et d’arbres ombreux appelée Veluvanarama Park. Le Bouddha y passa plusieurs saisons des pluies.

Après avoir rencontré Ambapali, le bon roi Bimbisara, malgré son esprit vertueux et noble, succomba à la tentation de faire l’amour avec elle. À la suite de quoi Ambapali donna naissance à un fils.

Le récit est maintenant interrompu mais il sera repris plus tard.

En route pour son dernier voyage, le Bouddha demeura provisoirement à Vaisali accompagné d’un grand nombre de moines. Il vivait dans la forêt de manguiers appartenant à Ambapali. Là il s’adressa à sa suite de moines comme suit : « Soyez méditatifs et attentifs, ô bhikkus, quoi que vous fassiez, gardez toujours l’esprit ouvert. Soyez vigilants à chaque instant, quand vous mangez ou buvez, marchez ou êtes debout, dormez ou êtes éveillés, parlez ou vous taisez. »

La nouvelle que le Bouddha séjournait dans sa forêt de manguiers réjouit beaucoup Ambapali. Qui ne prendrait pas la visite inattendue d’un sage de si haut rang pour une bénédiction ? Vêtue d’une simple robe, sans bijoux, Ambapali s’approcha respectueusement du Bouddha et s’assit à ses pieds. Le Bouddha se dit en lui-même : « Voici une femme au cœur calme et apaisé malgré des amis jouisseurs, des rois et des princes qui l’entretiennent avec une gentillesse particulière. Cette femme est réfléchie et stable en dépit de ses relations avec des jouisseurs. Quel être exceptionnel ! Cette femme sage d’une piété véritable est capable de comprendre la Vérité entière malgré une vie luxurieuse. » Le Bouddha lui fit un sermon. Le visage d’Ambapali s’illumina au momentoù elle écoutait le Dharma, l’enseignement libérateur de l’Illuminé. « Voulez-vous me faire l’honneur, ditAmbapali, de vous inviter avec votre suite chez moi demain ? » Le Bouddha acquiesça silencieusement.

Les princes Licchavis apprirent qu’Ambapali avait le privilège d’accueillir le Bouddha chez elle. Cela les rendit envieux et rancuniers. Parés de leurs plus beaux vêtements, ils s’en allèrent à la rencontre du Bouddha dans leurs carrosses somptueux. Mais Ambapali s’approcha d’eux dans son carrosse. Les deux troupes étaient face à face. « Ambapali, la prièrent-ils, nous te donnerons cent mille pièces d’or si tu nous laisses inviter le Bienheureux. » « Non, mes seigneurs, répondit Ambapali, je ne vais pas refuser ce grand honneur même pour tout Vaisali et son territoire. »

Déçus mais non battus, les princes rencontrèrent leBouddha en personne. Ils furent très heureux lorsqu’il prononça un sermon. Ensuite, les princes l’invitèrent àun repas dans leur palais. « J’ai déjà promis à Ambapali de prendre un repas chez elle », ditle Bouddha. De retour chez eux les princesse plaignirent d’avoir été humiliés par une simple courtisane.

Tôt le matin, le bol du mendiant à la main, le Bouddha et ses moines se rendirent à la résidence d’Ambapali. Elle leur présenta du riz sucré, des gâteaux et d’autres mets préparés dans son parc. Le repas terminé, elle prit place aux pieds du Bouddha et parla : « Seigneur, je fais don de ma forêt de manguiers à la communauté des moines dirigée par le Bouddha. » Il accepta le don et lui donna des instructions spirituelles.

Nous avons parlé du petit garçon né des amours du roi Bimbisara et de sa maîtresse Ambapali. Ce fils devint non seulement un moine sous le nom de Wimala-Kondanna, mais aussi un Arhat. Après un sermon édifiant de son célèbre fils, Ambapali décida d’entrer dans les Ordres. Elle devint elle-même plus tard Arhat. Quelle ironie que l’être humain qui était né à cause de la promiscuité sexuelle d’Ambapali devienne l’instrument indirect de sa propre libération du joug du samsara et du karma !

Qu’est-ce qui l’amena au Nirvana ? Elle avait pris comme sujet de méditation la nature périssable de son corps.

Après un sermon de son fils, l’Arhat Wimala- Kondanna, Ambapali décida non seulement de devenir nonne, mais aussi de méditer sur la fragilité de ses attraits. Ce sadhana l’aida à comprendre Anicca, la loi de l’« impermanence ».

Bien que l’on soit d’accord pour dire que cet exercice spirituel est la raison et le seul facteur important de sa Libération, il ne faut pas ignorer qu’elle s’était préparée à cet événement pendant ses vies antérieures. Il y a habituellement une grande succession de causes karmiques qui conduit à l’avant- dernière étape avant l’Illumination. Il est nécessaire de répéter que c’est le bon karma accumulé pendant ses vies passées qui lui a permis de renaître du vivant du Bouddha, bénéficiant ainsi de sa relation personnelle avec le Maître. Même son fils devint disciple du Bouddha et plus tard Arhat. La question de savoir si le Bouddha ou son fils favorisèrent sa transformation intérieure est controversée. Mais par ailleurs, on peut soutenir que c’était la pratique assidue du sadhana seule qui avait hâté son Nirvana. Il est difficile de dire pourquoi certains réussissent ou ratent leur quête spirituelle, mais il suffit de dire que ces énigmes échappent à la compétence humaine. Si nous devenons Arhat un jour, nous trouverons peut- être la bonne réponse.

Les extraits suivants de The Songs of the Sisters, adaptation de Theri Gatha ou Psaumes des Sœurs par Usula P. Wijesuriya, transmettent la voix d’Ambapali méditant sur divers sujets et en particulier sur la nature éphémère de sa beauté.



Il y a une éternité, à l’époque du bouddha Sikhi,
Ambapali était nonne supérieure de son ordre.
Elle et ses sœurs vénéraient le Bodhi
Quand l’une des sœurs éternua en éclaboussant
« Quelle putain a fait cela ? » demanda Pali,
En disant du mal de la noble communauté.
Elle paya cette insulte naissance après naissance
Prenant l’apparence d’une courtisane, désirée,
Mais bon marché.
À l’époque du Bouddha Gautama,
Elle apparut sous un manguier.
Sa renommée dépassait la gloire du soleil levant ;
Sa grâce, les cygnes et les faons.
Car elle avait souhaité
Dans ses nombreuses vies passées
De ne pas être née d’une mère.
Ses courtisans étaient plus nombreux que des
Abeilles sur les fleurs
Ou les feuilles de son manguier,
Jusqu’à ce que le roi décrète qu’elle serait le
Jouet loué du royaume.
Son fils unique Wimala Kondanna suivit le
Et fit honneur à la tunique jaune.
Il vint raconter à sa mère
L’altruisme qu’il avait découvert,
Et la priait de le suivre dans la voie du Seigneur.
Ambapali, la déesse adorée de l’État vint au
Dont le regard compatissant
La troublait comme
Aucun regard sensuel
D’un prince ou d’un marchand
Ne l’avait jamais fait. Elle le pria à genoux :
« Puis-je entrer dans votre Ordre,
Vêtue d’une tunique de bure ?
Acceptez mon verger de manguiers, ô Sire !
Puisse-t-il être un havre
Pour une personne telle que moi
Qui a enfin compris que la vie est un rêve. »
La sœur Ambapali était plongée dans la
Du changement que les années volées avaient
Gravé sur ses traits jadis si éblouissants
Et sur son pouvoir
D’attirer les princes et les pauvres
Pour les artifices de l’amour.
« Avant ma chevelure était d’un noir brillant,
Des boucles ornées de glands
Encadraient mon visage.
Aujourd’hui, elle pend mollement comme du
La vérité d’impermanence du Bouddha est ici.
Dans le passé, ma coiffure parfumée et
Ornée de fleurs,
Peignée comme de la soie,
Ornée d’épingles précieuses, enjôlait
Les puissants de ce pays.
Mais maintenant –
L’odeur moisie de l’âge l’envahit.
Les boucles épaisses parties,
Elle est devenue semblable à des
Queues de rat.
Il fut un temps
Où les poètes vantaient, où les artistes rêvaient de
L’arc parfait de mes sourcils.
Aujourd’hui, ils se tordent en une myriade de rides
Sur mon front, mes joues et mon menton.
Qu’est-ce qui a terni
Le lustre de mes yeux limpides ?
Où est parti mon nez juvénile si délicat et fin ?
Les lobes de mes oreilles ornées de
Pendants d’or et de perles, réduits maintenant
À l’os et à une peau ridée ?
Il fut un temps où mes dents blanches et étincelantes
Souriaient, attirantes, aux princes du royaume.
Mais qui me saluerait maintenant avec mes
Dents jaunes et manquantes comme une
Clôture brisée ?
Ma voix surpassait les chants d’amour du
Dans les nuits étoilées.
Mais maintenant elle chevrote, plaintive et vieille,
Je peux à peine parler pour vous raconter ce que
J’ai appris.
Ma nuque si gracieuse –
Les cygnes sauvages m’enviaient –
Rivalisait en douceur avec les
Conques sur les fonds de la mer.
Aujourd’hui, ridée et courbée,
Je grogne mon message.
Ceci est la vérité inévitable.
Mes bras si bien galbés, doux ils étaient comme
Pendent maintenant comme des tiges desséchées.
Mes mains – douces, lisses, ornées de bagues,
Rappellent les griffes d’oiseaux décrépits.
Mes seins ronds, si fermes, si doux, si pleins,
Dressés comme des
Cygnes, se réclamaient d’une fière féminité.
Maintenant ils pendent vides entre les côtes
Comme des filtres quand le jus est parti.
Mon corps, doré et chaud,
Maintenant un amas de chair flasque et
Mes cuisses, comparées jadis à des
Trompes d’éléphant,
Ne sont plus que des cannes à sucre craquées et
Où sont mes chevilles qui
Dansaient au son de mes bracelets de cheville,
Au tintement de ses clochettes d’argent ?
Où sont mes pieds, doux coussins de soie,
Maintenant craquelés et paralysés.
Je boite douloureusement.
Tel est le corps que l’âge va sûrement gâter,
Telle est la beauté passagère,
Pillée par les années rampantes
Se mouvant silencieusement.
Ce corps, jadis l’envie du pays,
N’est plus qu’une
Maison d’argile aux murs pelés. »
Sœur Ambapali se réalisa un jour.
Absorbant tout le savoir de la manière triple,
Ayant atteint le non-retour,
Avant la fin de ses jours,
Tentatrice d’un empire – le Nibbana trouvé.

Au lieu de spéculer sur l’Impérissable, les bouddhistes essaient de comprendre pourquoi ils sont attachés aux choses périssables. En méditant sur leur triste condition, ils se rendent compte que c’est leur appétit pour les choses périssables qui les empêche de réaliser l’Impérissable. Il ne peut être ni recherché ni appelé.

Les philosophes bouddhistes ont sagement évité de décrire le Nirvana. Est-il possible de le décrire avec exactitude ? Toute description du Nirvana ne pourrait être qu’un ramassis de mots insignifiants, sauf pour les Arhats qui ont atteint cet état élevé. Voyant l’impossibilité de transmettre sa connaissance en détail, le Bouddha a abordé la question dans le sens négatif en précisant ce que le Nirvana n’est pas : «Ce séjour, déclara le Bouddha, n’est pas né, ni créé, ni révélé, ni conditionné ».

Y a-t-il dans tout l’univers quelque chose qui ne change jamais et qui dure toujours ? Même le soleil et les étoiles disparaîtront un jour. Existe-t-il un être vivant qui ne soit pas soumis à la décrépitude et à la mort ? Toutes les choses et tous les êtres vivants ont une existence passagère et sont de ce fait éphémères. Ambapali avait parfaitement compris la doctrine d’Anicca, c’est-à-dire de l’«impermanence».

Comme le monde extérieur, le monde intérieur de la conscience est pris dans un tourbillon de changements incessants. Souvenirs, pensées, sensations et sentiments rivalisent pour atteindre la surface. Les pensées vont et viennent si rapidement qu’il est très difficile d’en suivre quelques-unes. Les éléments de la conscience luttent de vitesse à travers la couche inférieure de la conscience pure, créant ainsi l’illusion de l’esprit. L’ensemble des pensées prises collectivement donne l’impression fallacieuse qu’il existe une chose aussi concrète que l’esprit.

Le concept du moi est tout aussi illusoire que celui de l’esprit. Alors que le moi et l’esprit semblent exister tous les deux, ils sont en fait constitués d’éléments différents. L’esprit et le moi ne sont que des assemblages qui n’ont pas d’existence réelle et indépendante.

La doctrine d’Anatta, c’est-à-dire du non-moi, proclame qu’il n’y a pas d’ego permanent existant par lui-même soit dans les phénomènes corporels ou mentaux toujours changeants, soit hors d’eux. Cet enseignement est en relation étroite avec le principe d’Anicca ou « impermanence ». Comme l’ego n’est qu’un arrangement temporaire de qualités, il n’existe pas en lui-même. Un proverbe bouddhiste populaire dit qu’en fait il y a seulement de mauvaises qualités et non pas de mauvaises gens. Le sentiment « je suis » ou « j’existe » est la cause principale de notre asservissement samsarique. Nous sommes portés à croire que le je est l’acteur, que c’est le je qui souffre, que le je traite les autres avec bonté ou avec méchanceté, que le je renaît après la mort ; et finalement, que le je trouve la libération.

Cette doctrine est exposée clairement dans le Visuddhi Magga bouddhiste (La voie de la pureté) :


Il y a la souffrance et personne ne souffre ;
Il y a des actes et personne n’agit ;
Le Nirvana est, mais personne n’y entre ;
La voie est, mais personne n’y chemine.

L’Anatta, ou doctrine du non-moi, est l’enseignement de base du bouddhisme. Alors que l’on trouve beaucoup d’enseignements bouddhistes dans d’autres philosophies et religions, cette doctrine particulière est caractéristique du bouddhisme. En conséquence, le Bouddha a été appelé Anattavadi, ou professeur du non-moi.

Maintenant, Ambapali a pris douloureusement conscience que son corps a perdu ses attraits et sa beauté. Elle a ainsi acquis l’expérience pratique de la Dukkha, c’est-à-dire « la Noble Vérité de la Souffrance ». En constatant les changements choquants et pénibles de son corps si charmant, elle a connu l’Anicca ou doctrine de l’impermanence. Finalement elle a découvert la doctrine d’Anatta, du non-moi ou du non-ego, lorsqu’elle a vu que rien dans son corps et son esprit n’échappait à la décrépitude et à la mort. Elle a vu clairement que tout dans son corps et son esprit doit tôt ou tard finir dans le néant, car rien n’est éternel. C’est ainsi que la paix impérissable du Nirvana est passée par Ambapali.

La seule certitude dans la vie est la mort, c’est un truisme. Que l’homme soit mortel est un fait désolant avec lequel nous devons composer tôt ou tard. Quelqu’un a-t-il atteint matériellement l’immortalité ? Bien qu’il soit possible de prolonger la vie comme devrait le faire toute personne intelligente en absorbant une bonne nourriture, en pratiquant le hatha yoga et le pranayama, un être vivant a-t-il jamais échappé à la mort ? Dès que nous naissons, nous sommes destinés à la tombe et pendant cet intervalle le processus inexorable de décrépitude et de vieillissement ne s’arrête pas. Pourquoi les gens veulent-ils aujourd’hui masquer leur décrépitude en se soumettant à la chirurgie esthétique ? Pourquoi se maquiller? Pourquoi désirer maquiller un tas de chair et d’os sale et mortel ?

Les bouddhistes sérieux s’efforcent de se libérer de l’attachement à leur corps. Ils pratiquent la méditation sur les cinq parties du corps : le corps est un ensemble provisoire de parties séparées pouvant tomber en pièces n’importe quand, amenant à la mort.

La matière est comme la mousse,
Les sensations sont comparables à des bulles,
La perception est analogue à un mirage,
Le mental est un peu le même qu’un bananier,
Et la conscience est semblable à une illusion.

Ils pratiquent aussi la méditation sur les impuretés du corps, se rendant compte que le renoncement authentique au monde consiste à se libérer des désirs charnels :

« Mon corps est fait de mes cheveux, de mes poils, ongles, dents, peau, muscles, tendons, os, moelle, reins, cœur, foie, diaphragme, rate, poumons, intestins, estomac, excréments, cerveau, bile, phlegme, pus, sang, sueur, lymphe, larmes, sérum, salive, mucosités, synovie et urine. »

La beauté intérieure des saints qui ont rejeté leur ego est bien plus précieuse que la beauté extérieure. Ainsi purifiés, ils se sont trouvés libérés des rancunes. N’étant pas troublés par les pensées négatives et par les émotions nées de la peur, des soucis, de la colère, de la jalousie, de la haine, de la violence, du dépit, ils rayonnent une beauté insaisissable et éthérée. Il n’y a pas de mots pour décrire l’immense beauté et la sérénité intérieure qui rayonnait sur le visage austère et les yeux du Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. Son absorption dans l’Éternel était profonde. Étant si éloigné des préoccupations terrestres, il considérait probablement son aspect extérieur comme trop insignifiant.

Les premiers chrétiens étaient remarquables, car ils fuyaient le monde et menaient une vie extrêmement simple. Il est significatif qu’ils ne regardaient pas vers l’extérieur, mais bien vers l’intérieur. Pourquoi Jésus- Christ dénonça-t-il les docteurs de la loi et les Pharisiens ? Réfléchissons profondément aux reproches retentissants de Jésus :

« Vous ressemblez aux tombeaux blanchis qui paraissent beaux à l’extérieur, mais à l’intérieur vous êtes remplis d’os d’hommes morts et de tout ce qui est impur» (Mathieu 23: 27).

L’arrivée de la vieillesse peut être douloureusement supportable pour les vaniteux et spécialement les acteurs beaux et célèbres, les danseurs, les stars qui étaient l’objet de regards admiratifs et fervents. En contemplant avec nostalgie leurs années passées, ils regrettent de ne plus être sous les feux de la rampe.
Quelques-uns, hélas, ont même choisi le suicide au lieu d’accepter que leur corps et leur visage ne soient plus doux et charmants et se soient ridés. Ils ont souffert inutilement et payé cher leur vanité. Ils auraient pu connaître la sérénité et la joie s’ils avaient cessé de s’enorgueillir de leur aspect extérieur. Cette sérénité et cette joie, à son tour, serait provenue simplement du fait qu’ils auraient compris la grande loi fondamentale de l’impermanence (Anicca). Toutes les choses sont en mouvement perpétuel ou en changement continuel, c’est la caractéristique principale du bouddhisme.

Deux raisons majeures expliquent la dégénérescence spirituelle et morale de l’homme moderne. Tout d’abord, la popularité croissante du matérialisme, selon lequel il n’y a aucune spiritualité puisque la seule réalité est le monde matériel ; ensuite, l’attitude hédoniste affirmant que le plaisir est le bien le plus précieux. En fait, notre civilisation n’est rien d’autre que la recherche désespérée du plaisir sous différentes formes. L’accent mis sur le plaisir est tel que les gens se sont très attachés à leurs corps, et, malheureuse conséquence, ils ne se posent que rarement ou jamais les questions suivantes : Suis- je ce corps ? Pourquoi y suis-je attaché ? Y a-t-il autre chose que cet organisme avec son ensemble de pensées et d’émotions constamment changeantes ?

Dans l’Apadana, on trouve un cri de victoire attribué à Ambapali :

En cheminant sur la voie du Bouddha
J’ai découvert l’état indestructible.
Je suis sa vraie fille.
Je me souviens de mes vies passées,
Pur est l’œil surhumain,
Purifiée complètement à l’intérieur,
Il n’y a plus de devenir.

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The First and Best Buddhist Teachings

Sutta Nipata Selections and Inspired Essays

New Delhi: New Age Books



Some Basic Instructions that Rahula Received

Rahula was the Bodhisattva’s only offspring. The ‘Bodhisattva’ was the Buddha’s designation prior to the attainment of Buddhahood. Rahula, the Bodhisattva’s only son, was born on the very day his father renounced the world by giving up his household life. The news of his son’s birth reached the Bodhisattva when he was enjoying himself near the royal pond. Instead of rejoicing over the happy news, as any ordinary parent would have done, he decided then and there to renounce the world immediately, for he regarded the son’s birth as a bond (Rahula).

Following his Illumination, the Buddha accepted the invitation of his father King Suddhodana and decided to visit Kapilavatthu. On that occasion Rahula’s mother urged her son Rahula to go to the Buddha and ask for his inheritance. This the boy did but the Buddha remained silent. After having his meal the Buddha left the palace. Rahula followed his father and repeated his request. The Buddha thereupon asked Sariputta to ordain the boy.

The Buddha took a great interest in the welfare and development of Rahula with the result that he preached many suttas for his son’s benefit. This was something much more than a mere paternal interest for the Buddha was aware that Rahula, even in his past lives, had had the quality of obedience. Rahula, for his part, was keen on receiving guidance from the Buddha and other teachers.

At the tender age of seven years Rahula had the privilege of listening to a special discourse preached to him, which is called the Ambalatthika-Rahulovada Sutta, wherein there is an instruction that he should never tell a lie, not even in jest.

In the Maharahulovada Sutta the Buddha, among other matters, explains to Rahula the importance of regarding all forms (Rupa) as not having a soul or any other abiding substance.

When the Master realised that his son was at last ripe and ready for Enlightenment, he preached to him the Cula-Rahulovada Sutta. After listening to this discourse, Rahula and thousands of celestial beings (Devas), became Arhats.

Rahula predeceased the Buddha.

In the following Rahulasutta the Buddha recommended a life of complete renunciation to Rahula.


The Master: ‘Don’t you look down on the wise one

Because you always live with him?

Do you care to honour him

Who holds high the torchlight for mankind?

Rahula: ‘I do not look down on the wise one

Because I always live with him.

I always honour him

Who holds high the torchlight for mankind.’

The Master: ‘Having given up the objects of the five senses,

So lovely in appearance

And so pleasing to the mind,

And having from your home

Gone forth with faith,

Be one who puts out suffering.

Keep the company of virtuous friends,

Select a secluded and distant dwelling

With little noise,

And eat in moderation.


Crave not for robes, alms food,

Medicinal needs and a dwelling place,

Lest you go back to the world again.

Respect the disciplinary code

And restrain the five sense-faculties.

Be mindful of the body

And be replete with revulsion.

Shun that which appears to be pleasant,

Attractive and is fraught with passion.

Give your undivided attention

To that which is unpleasant.

Contemplate the signless

And cast off the tendency to conceit.

Then by fully understanding pride

You will wander around

In a state of calm.


With these stanzas the Exalted One frequently instructed the Venerable Rahula.

In the text the meaning of ‘signless’ is not very clear. According to Professor Max Muller the term ‘signless’ (Animitto) refers to the ‘unconditioned’, which is that indescribable state that is ‘free from marks or attributes’. It is freedom from the three signs or marks --- Lust or Greed (Raga), Hatred or Anger (Dosa) and Delusion (Moha).



Without wisdom there is no meditation,

Without meditation there is no wisdom.

Whosoever has both wisdom and meditation

Is on the threshold of Nirvana

Dhammapada, 372

Do wake yourself up!

Do examine yourself!

Being self-protected and mindful, O monk,

You will live happily’

Dhammapada, 379

You, indeed, are the protector of yourself.

You, indeed, are your own refuge.

Therefore restrain yourself

As a merchant restrains a fine horse’

Dhammapada, 380

The one who even as a young monk

Devotes himself to the teachings of the Buddha,

Lights up the world,

Like the moon in a cloudless sky’

Dhammapada, 382



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New Insights into Buddhism

Taipei, Taiwan: Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation.



The Peace of Nirvana


No words can adequately convey the nature and significance of nirvana but something of its flavour is noticeable in the following extracts from a few important Buddhist sources. Probably the finest description of nirvana is contained in the Udana which takes the form of a series of negative statements:


“O brothers ! there is an abode where there is no earth nor water nor air”

“There is an abode, O brothers ! where there is no world of infinity-of-space nor world of infinity-of-intelligence nor world of cognition or non-cognition nor this world nor the world yonder, neither sun nor moon.”

“That abode, O brothers ! has neither coming nor going, neither birth nor death. Without origin and without annihilation and beyond thought is that. The destruction of all sorrow is that.”

“That abode, O brothers ! is unborn, uncreated, unmanifested and unconditioned. Unless it were that, there could not be cognised in this world birth, creation, manifestation and conditioning.”

“That abode is Nirvana.”

According to the Lankavatara Sutta:

Nirvana is not to be found by mental searching...”

The Suttanipata states :

“That monk of wisdom here, free of desire and passion, attains to deathlessness, peace, the unchanging state of nirvana … The steadfast go out like this lamp … Where there is no-thing, where nothing is grasped, this is the Isle of No-beyond. Nirvana do I call it --- the utter extinction of ageing and dying.”

The Samyutta–Nikaya also attempts to describe it.

“The stopping of becoming is nirvana …It is called nirvana because of the getting rid of craving.”

In the Ariya Pariyesana Sutta the Buddha contrasted the transitoriness of mundane pursuits with nirvana which alone is eternal and hence worthy of achievement. There are, he said, two quests --- the noble and the ignoble. Man, being himself subject to decay, disease, sorrow and death, is given to the pursuit of ignoble things such as wanting a wife, children, property and the like. All these things are fleeting and impermanent. But the quest for nirvana is noble because it alone is not subject to decay, disease, sorrow and death.

There is an unmistakable suggestion that nirvana is a state of deathless bliss in an insecure world of continual change.

Etymologically, the word ‘nirvana’ means ‘blown out’ : nir stands for the negative and va for ‘to blow’. Nirvana is popularly likened to a lamp that has got blown out. There is surely no ‘blower’ or ‘I’ that does the blowing, but it would seem that the lamp gets blown out of its own accord when it is devoid of the oil of the illusion of the ‘I’ that everlastingly seeks continuance. When the ‘I’ with its attendant becoming process ceases, there is the ‘I’-less state of being. When perception is no longer restricted, perverted and distorted by the tunnel vision emanating from the ‘I’, what remains is the liberated, unconditioned state of pure seeing --- the dimension of Reality where things are seen as they truly are. Some writers have called it ‘annihilation’. But strictly speaking there was never a permanent entity or ‘annihilator’ that did the work of annihilation. Was it the ‘I’ that was annihilated ?

The ‘I’ cannot get annihilated because, having been a non-fact or an illusion, it never actually existed in the first place. Yet in another sense the ‘I’ had existed but only as a figment of the imagination.

Nirvana may be described as that extraordinary state of clarity wherein all illusions or non-facts have totally disappeared and can never arise again.

Nirvana is that supreme state of absolute freedom wherein the mind is no longer driven by the ceaseless and insatiable demands of the ego. When all sense of individuality gets discarded there comes into being a certain universality of outlook. There is an untrammelled intelligence, a heightened awareness that one is part and parcel of the entire cosmos. Above all, nirvana may also be described as that new spiritual dawning in which one radiates boundless compassion to all because the petty ‘I’ with its self-centred pursuits has altogether ceased.

Throughout the centuries numerous scholars, philosophers and monks have hotly debated the nature of nirvana. Their arguments were invariably based on their concepts about something that cannot be contained within the confines of mere concepts. If nirvana were ‘beyond thought’, then it is probably in some unknown realm that is far outside the reach of the mind. One sees immediately the futility of speculating about it since thinking is an activity of the conditioned thought-process whereas nirvana is a pure 'unconditioned' state ?

The mind can move from thought to thought, from the known to the known, but can it ever transcend the boundaries of the known and enter the sphere of the unknown? When the Buddhist aspires after nirvana, which cannot be sought and captured by the intellect, is he not indulging in wishful thinking? Is he not also getting himself entrapped in the karmic process of becoming?

In the Buddhist world a view that is widely held is that the Buddha took some five hundred odd lives to perfect himself. It is believed that the road to nirvana is so long and arduous that it can be reached only by a process of gradual evolution. This outlook has unfortunately contributed to a certain lethargy amongst Buddhists. Consequently many of them seem to lack a sense of religious urgency. They hardly become seriously discontented with their long-suffering bondage to the law of Karma. So it is heartening to find a statement in the Sutta Pitaka that nirvana is attainable right here and now, in this very life itself :

“The wise person, who clings to nothing and rejoices in his freedom from attachment, who has conquered his appetites, will win nirvana even in this world”

Who has the patience to endure suffering for an indefinite period of time ? Let us rejoice that there is the possibility of immediate realisation, instantaneous spiritual transformation as it were in the twinkling of an eye. So if we fail to find the release of Enlightenment in this present life we have only ourselves to blame.

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Buddha’s Earth-Touching Gesture

                                                                                                    by Claudia Weeraperuma


Why did Siddharta keep his hand on you, oh humble earth,
Below the tree, when searching deep for sorrow’s seeds?
He summoned you as witness to his previous mercy-deeds
When muddling Mara challenged his great moral worth.

You were the friend of Gotama, you goddess unassuming.
You wrung your auburn hair, from which vast rivers flowed,
Each drop a kindness Gotama on others had bestowed.
This wondrous water silenced Mara, flushing him out fuming.

When Gotama became a Buddha, reached the highest Goal,
He asked us to be lowly just like you, who reach so far,
Immeasurably vast and free from petty hatred’s scar,
Degraded not by dirt and spittle, bile and venom all.

Good earth, do sing to us of those delight-suffusing days
When He, Lord Buddha, walked with loving care
On your vast flowing, holy hair.
Awakening below His step, you would a lotus raise.
You bring forth rice, bananas, soy and ginger with such love,
But we bedaub you with our poisons, petrol from our cars.
We kill your plants, inflict on you innumerable scars.
Ungratefully we waste your gifts, don’t share, and many starve.

Oh holy ground, you’re not a mass of matter dead!
But living, ever-present friend of our Friend.
Wonderfully bearing us until our end,
May our feet revere you when on you we tread!

Calm and cooling mother, soothing soil with grass and trees,
He’d chose you as His sacred seat,
You, rememberer forever of His tender feet,
Recite to us His words of Peace.




                                                                                                                                    by Claudia Weeraperuma


I went in search of Liberation
And laboured long to rid myself of greed.
So when I saw the Buddha’s diamond throne
I wished to make an offering to this sacred stone.
But as I bowed and placed an orange on the spot
An unseen voice in me began to praise me for this trivial deed.
It said: “Two thousand years this fruit shall last.
Your saintliness is unsurpassed!
You’re reaching soon Illumination!”
But easy I felt not.

A noisy mind is never light,
The heart contracts, the chest is tight.

Why am I ridiculously pinched and plagued by pride
Whenever I perform a so-called “selfless act”?
I’m never selfless, never free
From that corrupting whisperer in me
Who makes my offered orange mouldy grey and packed
With worms, inedible on every side.

How much easier it is to give to beggars poor!
With hungry hands they grab the things I offer.
They do not glance at me and see my smaller coffer.
They do not thank me even with a smile.
The poor are pride’s purgation,
Who’re puncturing my puffed-up ego for a while.
I’m humbled: such a sane situation!
For I am so refreshed and feel relaxed for sure.

When can I make an off’ring to a slab of stone
Without that old obnoxious liar voicing “I” and “mine”?
When will the day dawn of devotion deep
When giving shall take place with “I as giver” put to sleep?
Will I ever find that moment far removed from time
When the whirling Dhamma Wheel is Known?



The Joy of Breathing

                                                                                                                           by Claudia Weeraperuma


The breath is our closest friend:
It gives us life until our end.
It is with us both night and day,
A true companion on our way.

It shares in our joys and pains,
In sorrow as it grows and wanes.
When we are sad or anxious it grows tight,
But it flows freely when our hearts are light.

But say, when breathing in, from where
Do you rise up, so light and fair,
Oh, artless player with the air?

When minds adream unlock, half-clear,
You seem to whisper in our ear:
“Oh friend, from deep below your feet
Where darkness reigns and earthly heat,
From soils not known to you I hail,
And then rise like a nightingale,
Within your very frame, my dear.
But you do hardly care to hear
My song — asleep you're to my tune,
When softly I ascend so soon. 

“I don't stay long up in the head.
When I have lungs and body fed
I soon sail down with merry ease,
A drunken eagle in the breeze
That spreads its wings to every side,
Unfolds, ecstatically wide.

“When breathing out and breathing in,
I move through body channels thin
From foot to leg, from hip to heart,
From palms to face and every part.”

Breath, in watching you, no strain
There is in us, no hope of gain:
You're not a tyrant to be followed,
You're not trying to be hallowed.
From soft beginnings to your airy end
You are an unpretentious friend.

Feeling you throughout our frames
Cools our mental wounds and flames.
Air moves in and soon goes by
Like our thoughts that rise and die.

Pleasures of the past we oft recall,
Greed, conceit and hate hold us in thrall,
But while you fly and fall,
Why don't we drop them all?


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