the truth prevails

POSTCARD#340: Bangkok: How are we to live our lives and bring up our children knowing POTUS, the most powerful man in the world, is a gangster, dismantling the structure of government as we speak. World attention distracted by the media’s feeding frenzy on money laundering, racketeering, criminality and the whole familiarity of our landscape is just gone… pieces and parts of objects recognizable from faraway events in history when huge towers tumbled to the ground in seconds, the concrete and steel turned to dust instantly. It’s too huge, too much, we just can’t figure it out. Nowhere to turn, consumerism and social behaviour long since taken the place of religion, another generation of young people growing up without a God.

But who am I to say it’s like this? I’ve been away from the West for more than 30 years. Thai Buddhists offer me shelter, and the rest is about living in the world while waking up to the truth – I don’t mean the truth as opposed to POTUS’s lies, I mean the underlying truth all religions in the world refer to…

It’s worthwhile pointing out that today Tuesday 19 February 2019 is Māgha Pūjā day, an important Buddhist festival, celebrated on the full moon day of the third lunar month. Perhaps we can contemplate a full moon at this time of the year that marks an event 2500 years ago when 1250 enlightened monks came from different places in India to pay respect to the Buddha. how did they get it organized? No mobile phones in those days, whatever, if it was telepathic, it was in the context of the cycles of the moon – the same moon we see today as it was then.

I’ve found that I can’t really understand all this without looking at what the Truth means in the Buddhist world. Sila [say: see lah] is the central principle of human behaviour that upholds orderly and peaceful existence. Sila is simply, a wholehearted commitment to what is wholesome.

The Way

‘The first stage of cultivating the way is refraining from following all that is evil. It is about learning to say ‘no’ to ourselves when we need to. As a result, we discover later we can say, ‘yes’ without losing ourselves. If we don’t recognize our unwholesome impulses for what they are, we might think the bad stuff is only in other people. The second stage of cultivating the way is developing that which is good. [Ajahn Munindo]

I’m thinking of words like ethical, virtuous, righteous, integrity. Skipping lightly over that heavy word, “morality”, I discover uprightness, veracity, reliability. So how did “morality” get such a bad name for itself? What went wrong? A misunderstanding in the Church over the Christian Teachings? Resistance to the Ten Commandments (because they are too much like unreasonable orders, ‘thou shall not…’?)

The 5 Buddhist precepts of Sila are similar to the ten commandments in the Bible, 6 to 9. A few differences but noticeable that the Buddhist precepts include abstaining from intoxication – Buddhists don’t drink or consume any other mind-altering substance.

The Precepts are as follows:

Abstain from:

  1. killing living beings,
  2. stealing,
  3. sexual misconduct,
  4. lying
  5. intoxication.

There are many other precepts that monks and nuns are committed to, an exhaustive list for Lay people. But we understand that all the Buddhist precepts are intended to develop mind and character to make progress on the path to enlightenment. Honouring the precepts of sīla is thought to be a great gift to others, because it creates an atmosphere of trust, respect, and security. It means there is no threat to one’s life, property, family, rights, or well-being.

Buddhists are friendly and harmless. Many times in history they’ve been wiped out by military power, or for political ends, but the truth prevails, somehow they survive and reappear like lotus flowers grow up through the mud and blossom on the surface of the pond.


 upper Photo: Seated Buddha, Gandhara, 1st-2nd century CE, at the Tokyo National Museum.
lower Photo:A youth program held in Thailand. The youth are joining in with a Māgha Pūjā celebration.
Linked info about the five precepts, and Magha Puja Day

magha puja day 2014

OB-SC487_0308ai_H_20120307120048POSTCARD#49: Delhi: It’s Valentines Day today and by coincidence it also happens to be a special day for Buddhists; Magha Puja Day, the full moon of the third lunar month. On this day, 2500 years ago, 1250 enlightened monks came from different places in India to pay respect to the Buddha. No mobile phones in those days, of course, so how did they get it organised? Maybe it was telepathic, all these monks had been ordained by the Buddha himself and it had only been 7 months since the Buddha had had the experience of enlightenment – a time when everything must have been vital and immediate. The arrival of the monks was thought to be a key event in the development of the Dhamma teachings and this was when the Buddha gave the “Ovadha Patimokkha” discourse: the three principles of the Teachings: do good, abstain from bad action, and purify the mind.

On Magha Puja Days in Thailand there’s the circumnambulation ceremony, walking clockwise three times around the temple holding flowers, incense and a lighted candle. For me it’s a time to sit on the cushion for a while, if possible outside in the moonlight. A time to consider what it must have felt like to be present in that ancient gathering. The great circle of the full moon in the dark sky of 2500 years ago illuminating everything, and the assembly of monks seen in its mysterious silver light. That moonlight would have been the same as the moonlight we experience today. The function of seeing is the same now as it was then. And for those monks sitting in the moonlight so long ago, the associated consciousness that arose through the act of seeing was the same consciousness arising that is always arising; consciousness of an ever-present flow of sensory data from outer to inner. They would have contemplated the truth that ‘I’ am a mind/body organism and an inseparable part of the whole that appears all the way through time – everywhere it’s the same moment. For those monks sitting in meditation all those centuries ago, the sensation of the breath in the nasal passages, a coolness of air gently present, would have been no different from how I experience it now. They would have contemplated the breath in this way; watching the in-breath, the out-breath, and the awareness that arises with that feeling was the same awareness I experience here and now.

Through the subjectivity of human experience, that special Magha Puja event of the gathering of the 1250 monks is suddenly brought into present time. The ‘now’ that happened then is the same ’now’ happening as I write this, 2500 years further on in linear time. The entire history of the world is like a very, very, very long moment. The ‘now’ moment is, of course, always present and, although I may think of that gathering of monks 2500 years ago as happening in the ancient past, I have to remember that a moment experienced at that time was a moment happening in present time for those who were there.

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“Refrain from doing evil,
 cultivate that which is good; 
purify the heart.
 This is the Way of the Awakened Ones.” [Dhammapada v. 183]

‘The first stage of cultivating the way is refraining from following all that is evil. It is about learning to say ‘no’ to ourselves when we need to. As a result, we discover later we can say, ‘yes’ without losing ourselves. If we don’t recognize our unwholesome impulses for what they are, we might think the bad stuff is only in other people. The second stage of cultivating the way is developing that which is good. Even if it is only a small moment of goodness, don’t dismiss it. The third stage is purifying our effort of the taint of ‘me’. Even when we have completely finished redecorating a room, the smell of paint fumes remains. Though our practice might be getting stronger, the sense of self-importance could be getting stronger too.’ [Ajahn Munindo, Friday 14th February 2014 – Magha Puja]