July 21, 2019
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    ramanayake

    We experience this world through our six senses: the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. There is nothing present to us beyond the experiences of these six senses. We accept these sense experiences as reality.

    Now let us examine these experiences closely. Say when we are listening to some instrumental music, we would start identifying these sounds as piano, violin, drums, etc. What are we really experiencing here? Are any of these instruments really producing ‘music’ or vibrations of different frequencies? If all that is produced are vibrations of different frequencies, then from where did the ‘music’ come? What is really happening here? The vibrations or sound waves produced by these instruments strike our ear drum causing it to vibrate and sends these vibrations to three tiny bones in the middle ear. The bones in the middle ear amplify the sound vibrations and send them to a snail-shaped structure called the cochlea, which is filled with fluid, in the inner ear. Once the vibrations cause the fluid inside the cochlea to ripple, this in turn causes a travelling wave causing the hair cells (sensory cells) to ride the wave. As the hair cells move up and down, microscopic hair-like projections bump against an overlying structure and bend. This bending causes chemicals to rush into the cells, creating an electrical signal. The auditory nerve carries this electrical signal to the brain. This is the reality.

    Now what happens when these electrical impulses reach the brain? Through a mysterious process, which we are yet to know, ‘music’ is produced in our mind, in conjunction with our memory. Because without past memory we cannot identify the instrument. So then, are we experiencing the real world, in this case varying sound frequencies, or are we experiencing a mind-created ‘music?’

    When we put some sugar on our tongue we experience a sweet taste. Is this sweet taste in the sugar or in the tongue? If it is in the sugar, then if we put some sugar on our hand we should experience the taste, or if the sweetness is in the tongue we should experience sweetness all the time. Until the sugar touches the surface of the tongue, and produces the necessary chemical reaction, and causes the specific electrical impulses to travel to the brain, we will not experience the ‘sweetness.’ Thus in reality we are experiencing a chemical reaction to which we refer to as ‘sweetness.’ So then the sweetness is not in the sugar: the sweetness or taste is in us, although we say wrongfully that the sugar is sweet. Note the specificity of this consciousness that arises. Without the tongue there is no taste, without the ear there is no sound. The six consciousnesses that arise depending on the six senses are SPECIFIC.

    When the eye sees an object, an inverted image of the object is formed in the retina which sends an electrical impulse to the brain, which in turn mysteriously creates an image with light and colour. What is really happening here? In reality it is only electromagnetic radiation that the retina is picking up. This now is converted to nerve impulses which start off a bio-chemical process, which is then converted by the brain into what we call light, and colour. This process now leads to the visual imagery which arises inside of us. It is these mental images that we see. So what we see are sights produced internally, not externally. So then in reality, the outside world has no light or colour other than electromagnetic radiation. This means light and colour are internal phenomena, and not external. The truth is we do not know what is out there. We are only aware of what is happening inside.

    By the time we see the object, or hear a sound, that radiation, or that vibration has long gone. So then, what we are experiencing is a phenomenon that had already occurred and disappeared. That means by the time we experience something through our senses, that something has already ceased, and what is experienced in the next moment is not the same thing that we experienced before. During that first moment and the second moment that object has already changed internally or externally, although it appears to us as the same object. So then aren’t we experiencing a changing world every moment? Isn’t this entire world actually arise inside our mind? The Buddha tells Deva Rohitassa, “…it is in this fathom long body is the arising and the ceasing of the world is to be found.”

    Existence is not possible without change. For life to be in this planet the earth has to rotate, and it has to revolve round the sun. From the time we are born we are changing physically and mentally (Rupa and Nama.) Change has to occur, otherwise we will not survive. For example we have to continue breathing in and out, each time changing the air within our lungs. Cells in the body are continuously changing, old ones dying and new ones arising. Thus, the Five Aggregates (Nama-Rupa) can only exist dependent on change. In other words these Five Aggregates are impermanent, subject to change every moment. They are dependently arisen, maintained and dependent on conditions.

    For us to say that something is real, there cannot be any change in it with time. In other words what is real does not change. Then what does not change is real. So then how can these Five Aggregates be real? What then is that state that does not change? It is that state that does not arise, for if it arises, then it HAS to change, that is the nature of things. Then what is this state that does not arise, that does not change, and that is REAL. It is NIBBANA. Well then, if Nibbana is a state that does not arise then it HAS to be WITHIN us; but it is covered and hidden by the Kilesas or defilements, like the piece of gold that is covered up by the dirt.

    If Vesak is important because Prince Siddhattha was born, then Esala is equally important as the prince was conceived in Queen Mahamaya. If Vesak is important because of the Buddha’s awakening, then Esala is equally important as Siddhartha left all his luxuries for an ascetic life; this is when his son Rahula was born.

    Queen Maya was born to King Anjana and Queen Yasodhara of the Koliya caste. That night she dreamt of gods, arrived from four directions, take her to lake Anotatta. She was bathed and donned in heavenly garb and jewellery. A white baby elephant, after circling around her three times, entered her body. As it is famously known, King Sudhodhana’s prophets predicted this as a sign of a great being’s arrival. The baby was conceived while the queen was on the way to her mother’s.

    The queen’s death, which occurred seven days after the prince’s birth, has caused contention. Some misunderstand that this took place as a result of the prince’s birth. The prince verified five factors, which included the mother’s age-span, before expiring for his last birth. Queen Mahamaya’s life was anyway spanned only up to 40, and when a princely sage is born, that particular womb would not be suitable for another being.

    Rahula, the son of Siddhartha and Yasodhara, was born after a long time the couple got married. When the news was brought, the prince uttered: “A fetter (Rahula) has been born, bondage has been born," and this is how the wee prince got his name. Some scripts believe he was named after a lunar eclipse (Rahu) that might have occurred around the time of his birth. Whatever it is, the little prince made his father take that giant leap, and life to become harder later on. Towards evening Siddhartha finally decided to leave, taking one last look at Rahula and his mother in a peaceful slumber. But mother’s arm was covering the child’s face protectively – just as if to inspire him to go ahead with the decision.

    Leaving the mansions

    King Suddhodana did not ever want his son to leave the throne. It is common knowledge that the prince was given three palaces to spend the different seasons and the common man’s life is kept out of his sight. Siddhattha was already surrounded by the sights of pleasure: beautiful women, dancers, singers and musicians.

    But all this only made the prince curious about life.

    One day while sentries are in deep slumber, the prince is said to have taken a tour in the city with his ally Channa. Then, the scriptures state, deities have sent him the four ominous signs. And then he was determined to leave for sanctity. Another day, the day his son was born, Siddattha renounced. Legend has it that he cut off his hair and threw it up to the sky. Deities from the thirty-three heavens got hold of that and offered saffron robes worn. He exchanged his royal garments with a deity, as scriptures relate. Prince Siddhatta thus became an ascetic.

    The little prince in the meanwhile knew his father was in robes, but his grandfather took every step to give him a proper education. No one can say the Buddha neglected his fatherly duties. He was particularly concerned about the moral education of his son in robes. He put him directly under Sariputta and Moggallana. Genes do wonders, and Rahula could grasp anything in a second. He was always concerned about his teachers’ instructions. The Buddha was happy about him, and named him as the ‘monk most concerned about training’. He gave his entire heritage, no matter how little his son is.

    Prince Siddhattha is much scoffed at, mostly among non-Buddhists, for leaving his son and wife when they needed his warm company. The question is what would happen if he did change mind seeing his own baby’s face – Siddhartha, by all odds, was a 29-year robust young man. Some say the prince left the palace in the broad daylight when everybody was up. In that case, everyone must have attempted to make him stay. Suddhodana’s palace would have looked like a funeral. Becoming a monk, ironically or sadly, is still considered a bad option in many families, unless they have financial issues. Siddhartha had no hard feelings about his small family. A poet sees the Buddha’s giant step in that way:

    ’Twas not through hatred of children sweet,

    ’Twas not through hatred of His lovely wife,

    Whether he left in the broad daylight or at the night in secrecy, is still a mystery.

    First discourse

    Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta comes in the 56th chapter of Samyutta Nikaya of Sutta Pitaka. In English Dhamma can mean ‘nature’ or the Buddha’s teachings. In this case, it is the Buddha’s teachings, and Dhamma Cakka is the ‘wheel of the Buddha’s teachings’. Pavattana is ‘setting in motion’. The sutta is thus named because it was the Buddha’s first discourse, hence it’s the starting point of a long mission. Before us is a list of English translations by authoritative scholars:

    1. Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dhamma (Bodhi, 2000, pp. 1843–7)

    2. Setting in Motion the Wheel of Truth (Piyadassi, 1999)

    3. Setting Rolling the Wheel of Truth (Ñanamoli, 1993)

    4. Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion (Thanissaro, 1993)

    After enlightenment and the invitation to preach his teachings, the Buddha scanned the world for a being who should be taught first. This is his show of gratitude. He realizes his first teachers - though their teachings did not help in the enlightenment - Alara Kalama and Uddakaramaputta are dead. Then he examines the five ascetics who helped him.

    The ascetics accept only the extreme of self-mortification. This is why they left Siddattha when he took up the middle path. They saw their erstwhile companion approaching towards them, and they had a resolution not to attend to him.

    But things took a different shape when the Buddha got closer. They noted something different, positive. They just forgot about their resolution and attended to him with care. In the discourse, the Buddha warns the ascetics against the two extremes: pleasure and mortification, and praised the middle path.

    The Buddha introduces four noble truths and the noble eightfold path to explain the middle path. The path leads to the right path of the journey of which the destination is enlightenment and Nibbana. The revelation was simple - basically the four noble truths - yet it was so deep to grasp. The truths, the Buddha explained, must be achieved in three aspects: recognizing, pursuing and fully achieving.

    Only Kondanna, of the five ascetics, could attain the first sainthood.

    Bhikkhu Thanissaro’s translation of the Sutta - it bears such significance being the first discourse - is reproduced.

    I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Varanasi in the Game Refuge at Isipatana. There he addressed the group of five monks:

    "There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth. Which two? That which is devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects: base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable; and that which is devoted to self-affliction: painful, ignoble, unprofitable. Avoiding both of these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathagata — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.

    "And what is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding? Precisely this Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.

    "Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress: Birth is stressful, ageing is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.

    "And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion and delight, relishing now here and now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.

    "And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress: the remainderless fading and cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, and letting go of that very craving.

    "And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: precisely this Noble Eightfold Path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

    "Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: 'This is the noble truth of stress.' Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: 'This noble truth of stress is to be comprehended.' Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before:' This noble truth of stress has been comprehended.'

    "Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: 'This is the noble truth of the origination of stress'... 'This noble truth of the origination of stress is to be abandoned'... 'This noble truth of the origination of stress has been abandoned.'

    "Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: 'This is the noble truth of the cessation of stress'... 'This noble truth of the cessation of stress is to be directly experienced'... 'This noble truth of the cessation of stress has been directly experienced.'

    "Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: 'This is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress'... 'This noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress is to be developed'... 'This noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress has been developed.'

    "And, monks, as long as this — my three-round, twelve-permutation knowledge and vision concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be — was not pure, I did not claim to have directly awakened to the right self-awakening unexcelled in the cosmos with its deities, Maras, and Brahmas, with its contemplatives and priests, its royalty and common folk. But as soon as this — my three-round, twelve-permutation knowledge and vision concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be — was truly pure, then I did claim to have directly awakened to the right self-awakening unexcelled in the cosmos with its deities, Maras and Brahmas, with its contemplatives and priests, its royalty and common folk. Knowledge and vision arose in me: 'Unprovoked is my release. This is the last birth. There is now no further becoming.'"

    That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the group of five monks delighted at his words. And while this explanation was being given, there arose to Ven. Kondañña the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye: Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.

    And when the Blessed One had set the Wheel of Dhamma in motion, the earth devas cried out: "At Varanasi, in the Game Refuge at Isipatana, the Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by priest or contemplative, deva, Mara or God or anyone in the cosmos." On hearing the earth devas' cry, the devas of the Four Kings' Heaven took up the cry... the devas of the Thirty-three... the Yama devas... the Tusita devas... the Nimmanarati devas... the Paranimmita-vasavatti devas... the devas of Brahma's retinue took up the cry: "At Varanasi, in the Game Refuge at Isipatana, the Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by priest or contemplative, deva, Mara, or God or anyone at all in the cosmos."

    So at that moment, that instant, the cry shot right up to the Brahma worlds. And this ten-thousand fold cosmos shivered and quivered and quaked, while a great, measureless radiance appeared in the cosmos, surpassing the effulgence of the devas.

    Then the Blessed One exclaimed: "So you really know, Kondañña? So you really know?" And that is how Ven. Kondañña acquired the name Añña-Kondañña — Kondañña who knows.

    Showery and windy conditions are likely to enhance particularly over South-western parts of the island from 16th to 19th July 2019.Fairly strong gusty winds up to 50 kmph are likely along the North-western, Western and Southern coastal areas.Showers or thundershowers will occur at times in Sabaragamuwa, Central, Western, Southern and North-Western provinces. Showers or thundershowers will occur at several places in Uva province and in Ampara, Batticaloa districts after 2.00 p.m.Heavy falls above 100 mm are likely at some places in Western, Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces and in Galle and Matara districts. There may be temporary localized strong winds during thundershowers. General public is kindly requested to take adequate precautions to minimize damages caused by lightning activity.

    The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in cooperation with the Tourism and Christian Affairs Ministry, held a joint seminar on the ‘Recovery of the Tourism Sector in Sri Lanka after the Easter Bombings 2019’, targeting officials and professionals in the tourism sector.

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