By Ven. Horowpothane Sathindriya Thera –
“Time flies by, the nights swiftly pass: The stages of the life successively desert us.
Seeing clearly this danger in death, A seeker of peace should drop the world’s bait” ~ (The Gotama Buddha)
We have commenced to step towards to experience both positive and negative vicissitudes of life in another New Year, 2021. Completely two decades of the new millennium swiftly expired and rapidly concluded. The dawn of the New Year brings numerous aspirations and inconceivable dreams in many hearts of the members in our human family.
Multifarious projects, programmes and appointments are congregated in our schedules and agendas which anxiously remain and impatiently wait to be successfully executed and efficaciously carried out.
While we concentrate on above mentioned facts, our paramount duties and responsibilities are there for us to be performed and fulfilled.
From the beginning of the year 2020, unheard and unexpected deadly virus COVID –19 Pandemic arrived in China and destroyed thousands of human lives there and later rapidly proliferated around the entire globe. There are 1.77 million lives have been destroyed. Economy has been worsened and the downturn of global economy has impacted and affected to multitude of people.
Global warming, climate change, economic downturn, proliferation of ethnic conflicts and COVID -19 pandemic are critical and crucial issues are ahead. In some countries, foreign borrowings and loans have led the way to dark the present generation and many generations to come. Unfortunately, majority of innocent and uneducated population is incapable to fathom the reality. The fluctuation of one’s own currency and digits of the currency rate express and testify the impeccable and perfect picture of the country.
Political turmoils and corruption in every place are extensively growing. Racism, antagonism, hostility, and insatiable desire for power and wealth are the insolvable issues in our human society. Even though multitude of people competitively engage in various religious activities, most individuals perform and carry out various immoral activities.
This is not a strange astonishment or wonder. It started from the genesis of human race. The untrained and undisciplined human mind associates with many impure thoughts and underlying tendencies. Those people who entertain impurities and vicious thoughts commit unwholesome deeds as well as they hurt and harm others. Therefore, conflicts are apparent in the globe today.
Nano- technology, consumerism and commercial culture are the persuasive forces that most people are infatuated with and entangled in. Most blindly believe that these tangible elements, materialistic commodities, commercial assets and other possessions could award happiness, but unfortunately some run into danger and catastrophic disaster. However it is not the supply of things to satisfy the needs of people that is bad, but the intention to exploit the consumer for vicious purposes.
Social, political and psychological problems are never ending. They are rapidly increasing in our global society. Unfortunately, many parts in the globe indulge in these acts in the worst manner.
Compassion, kindness, tolerance and many other paramount teachings of the Buddha are just only for lip service. Hatred based political atmosphere is clearly visible. Unlimited executive power and those who entertain it in the periphery are preposterous and delirious. They never think about the thoughts they implant, acts they commit, deeds they perform and ultimately the outcome they inherit as a repercussion is perilous and dangerous. Such behaviours lead to disasters but not to salvation
Not only our Buddhist canon and legends but also few centuries back history have brilliantly proved and clearly affirmed how powerful leaders met and faced the consequences of their own brutal and arrogant acts which they senselessly and atrociously committed with their limitless power.
For example, life of Alexander the Great, Greek king taught a great lesson to mankind, that everyone must take into consideration. At the age of twenty he became a king. As a military commander, he was undefeated and the most successful throughout history. On his way home from conquering many countries, he came down with an illness. At that moment, his captured territories, powerful army, sharp swords, and wealth all had no meaning to him. He realised that death would soon arrive and he would be unable to return to his homeland. He told his officers: “I will soon leave this world. I have three final wishes. You need to carry out what I tell you.” His generals, in tears, agreed.
“My first wish is to have my physician bring my coffin home alone.
After a gasping for air, Alexander continued: “My second wish is scatter the gold, silver, and gems from my treasure-house along the path to the tomb when you ship my coffin to the grave.” After wrapping in a woollen blanket and resting for a while, he said: “My final wish it to put my hands outside the coffin.” People surrounding him all were very curious, but no one dare to ask the reason. Alexander’s most favoured general kissed his hand and asked: “My Majesty, We will follow your instruction. But can you tell us why you want us to do it this way?”
After taking a deep breath, Alexander said: “I want everyone understand the three lessons I have learned. To let my physician carry my coffin alone is to let people realize that a physician cannot really cure people’s illness. Especially when they face death, the physicians are powerless. I hope people will learn to treasure their lives.
My second wish is to tell people not to be like me in pursuing wealth. I spent my whole life pursuing wealth, but I was wasting my time most of the time. My third wish to let people understand that I came to this world in empty hands and I will leave this world also in empty hands.”
He closed his eyes after finished talking and stopped breathing.
Twenty five centuries ago the Great Master, the Buddha has profoundly emphasised the perfect and true way to pursue and achieve happiness. It is called the Middle Path – Noble Eightfold Path.
Most Buddhist scholars have specifically inscribed the Noble Eightfold Path as the Buddha’s Ancient Path. Most global scholars have descriptively elaborated as a theoretical recitation and academic aphorism.
It is important to be aware and understand that these eight factors which contain in Noble Eightfold Path are applicable in one’s daily life and they are very pragmatic. The most vital fact is the interest to practice with effort and determination.
These eight factors definitely direct and open the gateway to achieve innermost peace and happiness, if one mindfully and genuinely put into practise in one’s daily life.
No one can promise you or no one is mighty to proffer you true happiness and inner peace here and hereafter unless you accomplish with your own effort and perseverance.
Even though everyone hardly seeks and arduously pursues happiness through various avenues, unfortunately most of them are not really in the state of happiness and are despondent of their own lives. When one closely studies and impartially scrutinizes the prime cause and the main reason is the lack of contentment and impatience. These two major elements are the driving forces which are based on craving, hatred and ignorance that everyone is lead to unhappiness and suffering.
Lifestyle and spiritual progress are pivotal components and key facts in human life. If no one concentrates on these two central issues properly, life would be miserable and destructive along with mental agonies and preclude the journey of happy life.
The eight vicissitudes of life or Eight Worldly conditions are the common and familiar factors that everyone, even enlightened beings, meets and experiences. The Buddha Dhamma has profoundly contributed and impeccably guided us to meet and overcome these both negative and positive challenges in our day to day life with unshaken mind.
Gain and loss, fame and disrepute, praise and blame, pleasure and pain are the Eight Worldly conditions. The Dhamma shows how the ordinary and the noble disciple differ in their responses to these changes. While the ordinary is elated by success in achieving gain, fame, prise and pleasure, and dejected when confronted with their undesired opposites, the noble disciple remains unperturbed. By applying the understanding of impermanence to both favourable and unfavourable conditions, the noble disciple can abide in equanimity, not attached to favourable conditions, not repelled by unfavourable ones. Such a disciple gives up likes and dislikes, sorrow and distress, and ultimately succeeds the highest blessing of all – complete freedom from suffering.
As a lay follower of the Blessed One, Anathapindika, the Buddha’s chief patron received a remarkable discourse from the Master. It contains four kinds of happiness and how to achieve them, namely: the happiness of possessions, the happiness of enjoyment, the happiness of freedom from debt, and the happiness of blamelessness. These four kinds of happiness will create a peaceful inner environment to lead noble and spiritual life.
Most people try their utmost to compete with others, accumulate and multiply their material possessions along with fanatic class, status and prominence. Unfortunately they always dwell in two worlds such as the past and the future. They never stay in the present moment.
They blindly presume and excessively dream to be happy and ecstatic after the completion of their own accumulation. But foremost admonition in this essay reveals the true nature of the life.
Once the famous poet, Thomas Grey has spelled out in his poem thus:
“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth ever gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”
The Gotama Buddha impeccably and profoundly emphasised value and power of the present moment. The practice of mindfulness through meditation guides us to be aware of the present moment. If someone is mindfully aware of the present moment, one will understand the key secret of happiness. This is the greatest challenge we meet and somehow overcome to achieve ultimate peace and innermost happiness.
There is no specific time or certain age to contemplate on the spiritual life. Life is uncertain and death is certain. Physical health is vulnerable. No one can be sure of a healthy life which is permanent. Many people go through various mental agonies and psychological traumas along with their physical ailments. It is very important to understand that getting old, becoming sick, deteriorating physical strength, finally embracing an inevitable death. We have no time to delay or hold the breath till we complete or finish our mundane tasks and projects. When the time is right, we must get ready to depart from this world. No one is there to take that responsibility. All around you are powerless and speechless. Good and bad – wholesome and unwholesome you do, will follow as a never departing shadow. One is responsible for oneself.
Mind power, mental culture, purification of the mind, inner peace and innermost happiness are the soothing assets that one can achieve to console oneself at the final moment when one departs.
When we carefully reflect upon and recall on the year or decade we expired and concluded, we are able detect and discover both the failures and accomplishments. Not only materialistic life but also we should think about our spiritual life. Leading a spiritual life is harder and strenuous than ordinary life because those who practise and cultivate inner qualities, such as kindness, tolerance, equanimity, generosity, should inwardly discipline themselves. The person who does not tread the spiritual path ultimately would be very remorseful and regrettable about his or her failures. With introspection of oneself, one is able to renounce the acts which bring failures and continuously maintain the performance that contribute to accomplishments.
The Noble eightfold Path is the only and the exact path to achieve the true innermost happiness.
These are the challenges that one should think of in the wake of the New Year.
May you have a peaceful New Year!
GATAM / December 31, 2020
May you too have a peaceful New Year!
But when you say this, you create exclusivity and division. There are other means too.
“The Noble eightfold Path is the only and the exact path to achieve the true innermost happiness.”
Ferryman / December 31, 2020
May you too have a peaceful New Year!
Yes when emphatic statements are made, there is some claim to exclusivity and hence division due to clash of opinion.
Perhaps, it may have been better to have added – ” according to the Dhamma or Doctrine of the Buddha” .at the end of his assertion, to be generally acceptable.
All the best wishes to everyone for a Happy New Year.
Simon / December 31, 2020
GATAM: It is a pity that you don’t see the “INCLUSIVENESS” of all Human Beings irrespective of all types of “Divisions” in the Eightfold Path. It could be that you don’t know it or even if know it refuses to study leaving aside the “Self Imposed” division within yourself. I wish you all the courage in the New Year to discard the “Divisional” belongings and seek the TRUTH. Wish you a very SUCCESSFUL New Year.
GATAM / January 1, 2021
I pity you Simple Simon. You have been misled. Can’t you see how noble the Buddhist monks are who tread the Eightfold Path on a daily basis!
e.g. Gnanasara, Kotuwe, Madagoda, Madille, Buddharakkitha.
Simon / January 1, 2021
GATHAM: Thank you. Those named are NOT my Buddhist monks and as I know them well who tread and had established the Eightfold Path as a “Business Venture”
. Now I know, how you got confused. Thank you again.
Ajith / December 31, 2020
I hope your thoughts will reach at least a few Buddhist Sinhala people in Sri Lanka. Within a dominant number of war mongering Monks in this country, it is extremely difficult to meet the challenges within Buddhism in Srilanka.
Eagle Eye / December 31, 2020
Don’t talk BS! There are no war mongering Monks in Sri Lanka but there are war mongering Muslim Mullahs, Hindu Poosaris and Catholic Priests who supported terrorism by stockpiling arms, ammunition, explosives and swords in Kovils, Mosques and Churches.
“Within a dominant number of war mongering Monks in this country, …”
old codger / December 31, 2020
“there are war mongering Muslim Mullahs, Hindu Poosaris and Catholic Priests who supported terrorism “
But none of the above have been convicted of murdering the PM.
Stanley / December 31, 2020
Most monks are not war-mongering people, just as most Tamils are not war-mongering racists spewing their hatred and venom on a Sinhalese-owned website.
Pundit / December 31, 2020
I hope that in 2021 , you will try to rid yourself of the obvious hatred you have towards the majority community of this country , which is reflected very clearly in the vitriolic comments you make against them regularly in this forum.
Cicero / December 31, 2020
Thank you Reverend Sir. These are good thoughts for the New Year.
Buddhist1 / December 31, 2020
Ven Sir, what you have written is the “Truth”. Although you quotes of Alexander and Buddha, all other religions too have the same teachings. Unfortunately those who have come after them have interpreted these teachings to match their own idiosyncrasies. This act of theirs has ruined the world and especially Sri Lanka.
I hope and pray that the above passage of yours is taken to heart first by the Buddhist Monks and the Politicians of all sides in Sri Lanka. If this happens we will see a 180 degree change in the attitude of Sri Lankans. If not we are going to be the well known “Paraiyas” of the world.
Cicero / December 31, 2020
Our country is ruled by military men. They must take the story of Alexander to heart. Life is ephemeral. Karma is a cycle that comes around. I, a Hindu, often ask why it is that people who are alleged to have killed to cause to be killed so many people, civilians, journalists, the innocent- are given to rule the country. What about Karma? Is it for real? Are these men not pursued by the ghosts of people they are alleged to have killed? The message I get from the Reverend’s article is that I should replace these questions with love and not malice. Not being perfect, I shall try to do so. Perhaps, time will answer the queries I have if I do not think about them. But, before then, like the prisoners, many more would have been killed in this land of the Buddha.
MyView / January 5, 2021
Agree with your discernment in your comment.
“ What about Karma?
Is it for real?
Are these men not pursued by the ghosts of people they are alleged to have killed?”
The third question first. The evil ones may have nightmares but that will be when they are out of Power and Authority. Till then, drunk with P & A, nothing matters.
The first two above are ‘a together’, a conundrum.
Karma is not a simple “crime and punishment” type concept, as made out to be, simplistically.
Buddhist philosophy does not admit of a Supernatural Entity keeping tabs and ledgers to dole out punishments or give special favours.
Karma is Nature or the natural order of the universe. In that sense Karma is only a principle or pragmatic concept. That which follows a wrong act, will generate an opposite reaction from the other party and trouble will ensue or will lead your own mind out of sync within you with more impure thoughts, and this causes stress and loss of mental calmness and equanimity, within yourself.
MyView / January 5, 2021
It is not that because you did something wrong, you will get equal punishment.
Not everyone has the same outcomes for wrong or right acts because of the randomness of nature, which is scientifically explained by the law of probability. Due to the infinite number of probable outcomes, nothing is guaranteed but only “probable outcomes” (and so many at that) will result. Hence even the evil may prosper for a while, and the good will have hard times.
Hence Buddhist Philosophy is pragmatic in that sense it is for oneself to preserve your own values governing your life, to reach a level of mental serenity, within Nature. Unfortunately, it has, on the way, taken on some “religious overtones”.
It is a philosophy for us to attain calmness and equanimity, while getting on with our daily lives. Not extremes but take the Middle path. Mainly do not judge others.
Raj-UK / December 31, 2020
It is refreshing to see a learned monk preaching Buddha’s true teachings when thugs in robes & militant monks are taking up politics & spreading hatred in the guise of patriotism. It is up to the learned monks to publicly condone such misguided people & remind them that the primary objective of a monk is to provide spiritual guidance so that we can all live in peace & harmony in a just society, irrespective of ethnicity or religious differences. Buddhism in SL has been rewritten with most so called Buddhists worshipping Hindu gods, asking for divine favours but many in the ‘sanga saba’ are happy not to rock the boat & lose privileges provided by the politicians for using religion as an ace card.
We start 2021 with a bleak outlook but I hope true Buddhist monks will be prominent in the new year to enlighten gullible masses who have been misled over the years with rituals & customs purported as Buddhist practices.
Whimpy Kid / December 31, 2020
The words and the mouth are more harmful than bullets or swords.
In this context Ajith has a point.
Simon / January 1, 2021
Rev. Horowpathane Sathindaya Thero: Rev. Sir: I have read that story of Alexander the Great. In our country (Sri Lanka) there are so many “Alexander” types. For example, Rs. 60 Million has been allocated to maintain four such from the hard-earned money of the people. They are (1) First Lady Hema Premadasa (2) Chandrika Cumaratunga (3) Mahinda Rajapakse and (4) Maithri[apa Sirisena. All these “Alexander” types were “CONQUARERS” (during their tenure of office) of the Peoples’ hard-earned money who toiled day and night for “Survival”. Will these “Alexanders” of Sri Lanka ever make a “Final Wish” to let their hands out of the coffin on their final journey? In contrast, the expenses of that “Journey” too will be met from the peoples’ contributions to the Treasury. I am at a loss to understand how these “CONQUARERS” continue to enjoy the Four kinds of happiness that you described in your presentation without facing the consequences for such “Robbery”? That “Anathapindika” and the “Master” not in our presence, perhaps you will be able to enlighten us on that aspect you discussed.