In the Buddha's Teaching the highest emphasis is laid on the law of cause and effect, or the conditionality of all mundane phenomena. Greed, hatred and delusion are the chief causes that lead to unsatisfactoriness in the world. If one seeks to escape from this state of dissatisfaction one should try to get rid of the underlying craving and anger or hatred due to ignorance of the true nature of things. War is diametrically opposed to peace. Conflict is due to the various malignant motives stagnating in the minds of men. The control of such thoughts as greed, jealousy, hate and so on will certainly lead to peace. Permanent peace will only come when one has completely eradicated these mental defilements. Wars will cease and peaceful dialogue between individuals will lead to a world of peaceful and harmonious living. Petty squabbles arose between the farmers on both sides of the river Rohini which served as the boundary between the Sakyan and the Koliyan Kingdoms, as each side tried to divert as much water as possible to their fields. Finally these led to a major confrontation of the two armies. The Buddha arriving on the scene exhorts them on the calamitous results of war and the advantage of arriving at a peaceful settlement. Thus war is averted and peace restored. It should be mentioned that the Buddha has been the only religious teacher to have visited a battlefront in person and acted as a true mediator in averting war.
1. The Birth of the Bodhisatta.
On a full-moon day in the month of May (Visakha) 2600 years ago was born a Prince named Siddhattha. His birth took place at Lumbini (modern Rumindei in Nepal), where his mother Mahamaya, the chief queen consort of King Suddhodana of Kapilavatthu, rested with her royal retinue, on her way to her parental home in Devadaha. In the picture Queen Mahamaya stands under a flowering sala tree holding on to one of its branches.
2. Life as a Prince.
Manifold was the variety of all the sensuous delights within the palace, the music and song that filled the palace halls by night and day; the beauty and grace of its dancing girls; the fragrance of subtle perfumes; the finest silks and priceless gems for jewellery and adornment; and rare delicacies and foods for the royal table. And yet, day after day, seated amidst all this luxury the Prince remains unmoved. Ever in thoughtful mood, with a far-away look in his beautiful eyes he muses on the fleeting nature of life's so called pleasures and its doubtful delights.
3. The realities of life.
All King Suddhodana's efforts to protect his son from the four sights of old-age, disease, death and a recluse are of no avail. On a certain occasion, on his way to the royal pleasure gardens the Prince is confronted by each one of these very sights, and is filled with doubts and deep misgiving. Soon after this he meets a wandering ascetic, impressed by the sombre garb and quiet demeanour of the homeless recluse the Prince looks long and hard at him, and then, makes up his mind to leave the palace for a life of homelessness.
4. The Great going forth.
On the day of the Esala full-moon (July) the Crown Prince receives the news brought from the palace, of the birth of a son to his wife, the beautiful Princess Yasodhara. Alarmed at this fresh development, this new fetter to bind him closer to the world, the Prince decides to leave the palace that very night. For the sake of his father, his queen, his son, for the sake of all mankind, he would leave the world to seek a way to save the world from all suffering. This is the Great Renunciation.
5. Experiment with Asceticism.
For six long years the ascetic Gotama, as Prince Siddhattha was now known, wanders along the highways and byways of India. He goes to Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta two of its greatest religious teachers, who teach him everything from their store of knowledge and wisdom. But the ascetic Gotama is not satisfied, for their teachings do not lead to the cessation of suffering. With unrelenting energy he undergoes rigorous ascetic discipline, both bodily and mental, seeking a way to the cessation of suffering through further suffering. In the end he becomes lean and emanciated and a mere skeleton.
Discarding both extremes of luxurious living and self mortification, the Bodhisatta Prince chooses the Middle Path of moderation based on the practice of virtue (sila), concentration of the mind (samadhi), and the intensive analysis of all psycho-physical phenomena that finally leads to full understanding of things as they really are (panna). Seated under the Bodhi-tree at Buddhagaya he attains Samma Smabodhi and becomes the Supreme Buddha.
7. The First Discourse.
Having realized the Four Noble Truths - the Noble Truth of Suffering; the Cause of Suffering; the Cessation of Suffering; and the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering - by himself, the Buddha now decides to teach them to the five ascetics who had earlier served him at Uruvela, in Buddhagaya. At the end of this First Discourse, which is known as the "Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta" and given to the five ascetics who were now living at Isipatana in Benares, the oldest of them, Kondanna realises the first path and fruition of the Stream-winner (Sotapanna), or one who goes against the stream of Samsara (the recurring cycle of life and death).
8. Go now and wander for the welfare of the many.
The Buddha stays on at Isipatana for the rainy season. However, before that, within the first week of His giving of the Dhammacakkappavattna Sutta, all five ascetics reach the highest fruition of Sainthood and thus become the first five Arahant disciples of the Buddha. Before the rainy season is over fifty five others have followed suit. The Buddha now exports His sixty disciples: - 'Go forth ye bhikkhus, for the welfare of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, welfare and happiness of gods and men'. Accordingly the disciples set forth to spread the new teaching.
9. The law of Causation or Dependent Arising.
After His Enlightenment under the Bodhi-tree at Buddhagaya, the Buddha reflects on the law of Dependent Origination (Paticca Samuppada). He ponders as to how things come into being due to past and present conditions to cause suffering. Next He muses on the cessation of these very things when their cause has been removed. Then he reflects on both the arising and the cessation of all things conditioned and inter dependent, in the present, the past and the future.
10. The Philosophy of change.
The Buddha teaches that all conditioned things are in a state of flux or change, and thus impermanent. The ever changing nature of both mind and matter proves the insubstantiality of life, and the instability of existence. Knowing this, Khema the consort of King Bimbisara avoided going to see the Buddha: for being very beautiful, she was afraid the Buddha would disparage her self-conscious awareness of her loveliness. As she went into his presence one day, the Buddha creates the illusion of a beautiful young woman before her, who gradually grows old before her very eyes and collapses at the feet of the Master. Alarmed and ashamed she realises the impermanence of the human body.
11. Unsatisfactoriness of Life.
According to the Buddha, whatever is impermanent is subject to suffering, and the world rests on this basic factor of suffering (Dukkha). However, having accepted this fact, He goes on to teach man how to gain his release from all suffering. The tragic story of Patacara who loss her whole family within a matter of a single day and night, points out only too well how suffering besets the unsuspecting worlding. After listening to the Buddha she gains peace and sanctity.
12. Buddha teaches that all Phenomena is soulless.
When a thing is impermanent, as all conditioned things are, and thus susceptible to change, there can be no overlord or Self. Helpless in arranging things according to its wishes there can be no soul as master over mind and body. The Buddha explains the soullessness of beings to the five bhikkhus at Isipatana in Benares, in the discourse on soullessness (Anattalakkana Sutta).
13. Freedom of thought.
At times referred to as the Buddha's Charter of Free inquiry this discourse was given by the Buddha to the Brahmin Kalamas at Kesaputta. 2500 years ago, preaching against blind belief in Buddha gave prominence to and encouraged the spirit of free inquiry and independence of thought and action, subject to sound judgment. He trained his disciples in the art of questioning as well as in the finer points of debate and discussion. Pointing out the dangers of haphazard thinking the Buddha teaches the Kalamas the art of reasoning for the sole purpose of arriving at true understanding of the Buddha's teaching of the Four Noble Truths.
14. Towards human dignity.
Sunita was a scavenger born into a so called outcaste community. On meeting the Buddha on his almsround one day, the humble youth prostrated himself before the Master in adoration. Asking for ordination he is taken to the temple where he soon becomes worthy of the highest obeisance of both deva and brahma gods. Thus the Buddha teaches that a man becomes neither a Brahmin nor a low-caste by birth, but by deeds alone.
15. Equality of women.
It was the Buddha who first gave women her rightful place in a society which had earlier ostracised her even to the extent of treating the birth of a girl as an inauspicious event. Knowing that being a woman was no bar to her attaining the highest fruition of Sainthood, the Buddha permitted the ordination of women as Bhikkhunis. Further, the establishment of a Bhikkhuni Sasana (Order of Nuns) by the Buddha was the first of its kind in the history of the world. In the picture, The Ven. Ananda, who has interceded on behalf of the Sakyan ladies including the step-mother Mahapajapati Gotami, stands by their side.
16. Human freedom.
In the time of the Buddha it was common for both men and women to enter into services in rich households due to their extreme poverty. In fact this traffic in human slaves was very common at the time, even though it was contra indicated for a follower of the Buddha. The state of slavery that existed at the time is well illustrated by the story of the slave girl Rajjumala who worked for a very wicked mistress who treated her without any mercy even for the slightest fault. Here the Buddha admonished both servant and mistress and teaching them the Doctrine, bestows permanent peace on both of them.
17. Ministering to the sick.
In spite of the fact that the study and practice of medicine and surgical science has advanced to a great extent by the Buddha's time, hardly any attention was paid to nursing or caring for the sick. Putigatta Tissa Thera was a monk who was stricken by a skin disease which spread covering his whole body with a mass of ulcerating matter. Lying unattended by the fellow monks his condition worsens. The Buddha going to the stricken monk who now lies dangerously ill, bathes him in warm water with the help of Ananda Thera, and cleans his robes. Having made him comfortable the Buddha expounds the Teaching to him, explaining the true nature of the human body. Enlightened by the discourse the Thera becomes an Arahant. The Buddha then addresses the other monks on the ennobling task of caring for the sick. Accepting the compassionate exhortation of the Master and following His noble example, the laity started to build wards for sick monks in all large monasteries. Later king Dhammasoka was to build hospitals not only for the public but also for sick animals. Hence the honour for the establishment of the first hospitals should be given to the Buddhists.
18. Psychic Therapy.
The Buddha speaking on the mind, has also spoken on mental disorders and on the treatment of psychic ailments. The Buddha has traced sorrow as one of the chief causes leading to the arising of mental disturbances. On the death of her only son, Kisa Gotami loses control of her senses and in her madness goes in search of medicine for her dead child. Failing all else she appeals to the Buddha, who realising that nothing would convince her until her mental equilibrium has been restored, sends her on an errand to get him a few mustard seeds from a house where there has been no death. Unabl to accomplish the Master's request, she comes to the conclusion that death is inevitbale and that her only son too had succumbed to it.
19. Compassion to Animals.
In the Buddha's time there were various animal sacrifices taking place in India. Innocent animals were killed as Offerings on sacrificial altars to appease the gods, for man's happiness both here and hereafter. The Buddha, however, showed man that it was impossible to obtain happiness for oneself by causing suffering to others, and that the followers of the Buddha if they were so, should avoid making animal sacrifices. At that time the King of Kosala had seen sixteen terrifying dreams in a single night, and was in great fear. To avert the evil influence of these dreams a great animal sacrifice with the killing of thousands of animals was arranged in accordance with the advice given by the Brahmins. Hearing of this, the Buddha advises the King against such a sacrifice, thus saving the lives of all those doomed creatures. From that day to this, no taking of life however small is involved in any ceremony of the Buddha's followers.
20. Buddhist Economic System.
Many who are not familiar with the Buddha's Teaching classify it as a religion for the next world, or for a future life. They are completely mistaken in this, because eighty percent of the objectives included in the Buddha's Teaching are for the world of today. According to the Buddha all except one of the five blessings that accrue to the virtuous are available in this life itself; ten of the eleven benefits obtainable through the development of Metta (loving-kindness) are immediate. One who leads a good life in this world is certain to be happy in the next. The Buddha emphasises this in His Teachings. Thus the Buddha who taught the way to the cessation of suffering also pointed out the path to a highly satisfactory way of life on earth. One aspect of this mundane progress refers to an economic system based on Buddhist principles with the objective of economic development together with the elimination of poverty. The Buddha defines righteous employment as engagement in agriculture, trade, dairy farming, defence services, government services and professional services. He prohibited trade in weapons, in slaves, in rearing animals for slaughter, in liquor, and in poisons, drugs and narcotics.
21. Buddhist Education.
It is a method of teaching that is based on the mental development of the individual: The primary object of Buddhist Education is to produce a cultured disciplined and educated society. With that object in view the first university to be established in the world was at Nalanda in India. It is reported that over ten thousand well disciplined, cultured and law abiding students had their education there in addition to the numerous lecture halls found there classes were also held in the open air under the cooling shade of trees.
22. Administration of Justice.
Certain statutes regarding the administration of justice, were set up by the Buddha for the benefit of bhikkhus, in order to facilitate the dispensation of moral justice according to sound judgment, whenever the occasion arose. By this act the Buddha ensured that the spirit of moral justice which enables us to interpret laws correctly, unlike the imperfect expression of certain aspects of our present day legal administration. At the time of the Buddha and even later, there were kings who took advantage of, and made use of these laws to supplement their own. The judicial procedure adopted by the Buddha is clearly illustrated in the case of the Arahant Theri Kumara-Kassapa's mother, who unaware of her pregnant condition, with her husband's consent left her home and entered the Bhikkuni order. Later, finding her in an advanced state of pregnancy, the bhikkuni was charged with a serious allegation of misconduct and summoned before a religious court of appeal. The Buddha ordered Upali Thera, foremost among His Arahant disciples in knowledge of Vinaya matters, (and thus equal to that of the Chief Justice of to-day), to preside, try the innocent victim and to deliver judgment on her. The audience consisted of bhikkhus, bhikkunis and laymen, including the lay-woman Visakha. She screened the victim from the presence of the Buddha and the rest, after careful examination and intimate questioning declared that she was quite innocent. The Arahant Upali on hearing the evidence absolved the bhikkuni of any transgression.
24. The Maha Parinibbana.
The Buddha was born as a prince under a tree, gained Supreme Enlightenment under a tree and wandered about India for 45 years giving, His Teaching to the world, and finally passed away at the age of eighty at Kusinara under a tree as a human being.