Marshland Flowers Part 2

Freedom from emotional and conceptual defilements 

This is the major reason why Buddhism does not consider a yogi with mighty powers equal to an Arhat or a Bodhisatwa or a Buddha.

Now there is also a sixth Abhigya which is considered the last and the highest Abhigya but not part of the five we have talked about so far. All the above five Abhigyas are lower Abhigyas and are considered lowly in all forms of Buddhism. But this last Abhigya, called Asrava Cchaya Gyana (knowledge of the extinction of the outflows) is considered the real Abhigya (or Siddhi – Riddhi) in Buddhism.

Asrava means the outflow of mental defilements (emotional and conceptual defilements). When we have emotional and conceptual defilements they are always flowing out from our subconscious mind through verbal or non – verbal expression. These Asravas remain even in yogis who have attained high Samadhis and various Riddhi Siddhis Praatiharyas.

This is the major reason why Buddhism does not consider a yogi with mighty powers equal to an Arhat or a Bodhisatwa or a Buddha. Even such a yogi, no matter how charismatic and mind boggling, still has not destroyed the Asravas. Only an Arhat, an 8 th Bhumi (level/stage) Bodhisatwa and above, and the Buddha who is even above a tenth Bhumi, has totally destroyed all Asravas.

This brings us to the big question, how are the Asravas totally destroyed? This brings us to a very important issue within Buddhism which is missing in non – Buddhist systems or at least it is not clear enough.

According to Buddhism there are two major types of meditation systems and they do not produce the same results. One of them, which usually comes first in the Buddhist texts, is Samatha – meditation and the other is Vipasyana meditation also called Vidarshana meditation.

To understand Buddhism and its correct view, it is of utmost importance to understand these two types of meditations very clearly and to be able to distinguish between these two. Vipashyana is the Sanskrit word used in the Sarvastivad and Mahayana – Vajrayana schools while Vipassana is the Pali word used in the Theravadin School and it is closely linked with what is called mindfulness – meditation but is not limited to that. Mindfulness is called Smrityupasthan in Mahayana and Sarvastivadin texts while it is called Satipatthan in the Pali Canons of the Theravadins.

We shall go into greater details with Samatha and Vipasyana later on but here we shall deal with them in short as the occasion demands it.


…The mind remains the same without thoughts, concepts, Kleshas changing or disturbing it.

Samatha comes from two words. Sama which means quiet, tranquil and etymologically it is linked with the English word, 'same'. It means the mind remains the same without thoughts, concepts, Kleshas changing or disturbing it. But here the mind remains the same because it is focused on the same thing with a high level of concentration; so the mind remains the same (Sama), with the same Alambana (object grasped for meditation even if it is an objectless object) for two – four – eight – ten hours or even days.

This kind of meditation when it reaches a certain depth (depth here does not mean how many hours s/he remains absorbed in the Alambana (object of focus) but rather deeper levels of absorption) is called Samadhi. Although the words Samadhi is used in the Hindu and Jain systems too, the Buddhist classification of Samadhis are far more detailed and refined.

While the Hindu Samadhis are classified into Savikalpa (also called Sampragyata which means with a thought or focus, i.e. Alambana) Samadhi and Nirvikalpa (Asampragyata) Samadhi, which means without any thought or object of focus (Alambana); the Buddhist classification is far more complex. It must be remembered that the Patanjal Sutra upon which virtually all forms of present day Hindu – meditation is based, is, according to Dr. Surendranath Das Gupta in his A History of Indian Philosophy, merely a re-hashing and Hinduisation of the Buddhist eightfold path (Astangika marga).

 But even though Buddhist concepts, ideas, categories were taken as the very name Astanga yoga from the words Arya Astangika marga, it still seems to be a mixed pot pouri of ideas picked up from here and there. For example, even though the word Chatur Brahma Vihara is found in the Patanjal Sutra no Hindu commentary including Vatsaayan seems to know what it is or what kind of meditation it is. And the Savikalpa and Nirvikalpa Samadhis are just a rather rough categorisation of Rupa Samadhi and Arupa Samadhis taken from Buddhism and given new names.

 But the Rupa Dhyanas have four levels of Samadhi (sometime considered as five depending upon how it is distinguished) called first Dhyana, second Dhyana, third Dhyana and fourth Dhyana where breathing stops. And the Arupa Dhyana are also divided into four levels. All these are missing in the entire Hindu systemisation of Samadhis. The Arupa Samadhis are without any object of focus; but they are more or less the same level as the fourth Dhyana. However they do get more and more refined.

Cutting the roots of Kleshas 

Riddhi – Siddhis are not a proof that the person is enlightened…

But what is most important to understand is that even after achieving the highest Arupa or Nirvikalpa dhyana, the Asravas (emotional defilements) are not destroyed but only blocked or stopped like a dam stopping water (technically called Viskhambana). And for the present day Indo – Nepali public it must be emphasised that it is merely blocked for the time being, even in those who show manifestation of Siddhi – Riddhi – Pratiharya.

According to Buddhism Siddhi – Riddhis can be a part of both enlightened beings who have attained Asrava – cchaya (destruction of emotional defilements, intellectual defilements) as well as of those who have only attained high stages of Samadhis but have not yet attained Asrava – cchaya. This is a point Buddhism is emphatic about and also a point most Indo – Nepalis are blissfully ignorant of.

Riddhi – Siddhis are not a proof that the person is enlightened which in Buddhism means that s/he has attained Asrava – cchaya Gyana. So no amount of Samatha Samadhi no matter how deep will bring about Asrava cchaya. But it can produce various manifestations of Riddhi – Siddhi. It does not matter if the person went into deep Nirvikalpa Samadhi for fourteen day or so during which time even flies were fooled that the body was dead, etc. When coming out of the Samadhi s/he comes back with all his/her emotional and intellectual defilements. They are not cut or destroyed because nothing or no modus operandi has been employed to cut or destroy them.

If just remaining in an unconscious, thoughtless void was enough to cut or destroy Asravas, then every person goes into that state for some hours when they enter deep sleep (Susupti); but nobody comes back from deep sleep finding himself/herself free from Asrava. So just extending that state to more hours or days surely cannot help. Nor does arriving at a super conscious state do much in this case as that super conscious state is always present in all humans and in spite of it all humans are still afflicted heavily with Asravas.

So just practices that still the mind and take it into deeper and deeper levels of quietness may bring peace and tranquility to the practitioner but that is not the same as Asrava cchaya and no such practice no matter how esoteric or secret or known to only a chosen few, they will not and cannot possibly produce Asrava cchaya. Simply an absorbed state of mind, whatever the mind be absorbed in, be it on some super conscious state or on some external or internal object or objectless or thoughtless; such absorption Samadhis such Samatha – type Samadhis only suppress the emotional defilement but do not even touch the intellectual defilement.

  The six Abhigyas

In Buddhism, if Siddhis are ever used it is always used as means to goad on intimate disciples and never as a public display.

Emotional defilement is called Klesha – Avarana; and intellectual or conceptual defilement is called Geyaavarana. Geya means the known or knowledge of the known and Avarana means covering, something that blocks or hinders. These two must be cut off at the root and totally destroyed before a person can be called enlightened or an Arhat or a Buddha in the Buddhist sense.

We have seen that reaching deep levels of Samadhi does not cut these off at the roots. Nor does attaining Siddhi – Riddhis automatically cut these off at the roots. But more about these two defilements later as it is crucial to understand them to understand the Buddhist path and fruits.

As we have seen, the sixth Siddhi or Abhigya called Asrava cchaya gyana is considered as the highest Siddhi in Buddhism and a Siddha in Buddhism always mean someone who has attained the sixth Abhigya, at least to some degree if not completely, as is necessary for complete enlightenment. In fact from the time of the Buddha himself, Buddhism has not only kept the other Siddhis at a lower rung of the ladder but has always been suspicious of people who use the lower Siddhis unscrupulously. If it is ever used it is always used as means to goad on intimate disciples and never as a public display.

There is a wonderful story about this at the time of the Buddha himself. Most of the Buddha's disciples were endowed with all the six Abhigyas. We shall talk more about them later, but for a small taste, it is said that Maudgalyayana went bodily up to Indras Deva loka. Indra saw this Bhikchhu and mistook him for some ordinary Bhikchhu with some Siddhi – Riddhi, so Indra wanted to impress upon this Bhikchhu how great he was. So he took him to his fabled garden which is famous and then proceeded to take him to his fabulous palace, the fabled Vajayanti Prasad.

Indra thought the Bhikchhu would be so impressed with this splendour that he would be awestruck. But the Arhat Maudgalyayana read his mind and thought to himself, “I must teach this King of the Devas a lesson.” So when they arrived at Indra's fabulous palace, Indra showed him proudly his palace. Maudgalyayana quietly went to the base of the palace and pushed his big toes against the foundation and wiggled it so that the huge palace shook like a toy. Then Indra realised that this is no ordinary Sraman and paid great respect to him.

  Samatha and Vipassyana

According to all forms of Buddhism there is only one way 'Ekayano Maggo'…

Going back to the topic of the Buddhist attitude towards Siddhi – Riddhis, we have a story of another Brahmin disciple of the Buddha – Bhaardhwaj Pindola. One day he found a big crowd gathered and went to see what the hue and cry was all about. He saw that some competition of Siddhi – Riddhi was going on. There was a long pole on top of which was an object and it was declared that whoever can bring that object down without climbing the pole or touching it in anyway would be the winner. And the winner’s Guru would be announced as the greatest Guru.

Bhaardhwaj saw that many yogis tried but could not get the job done. So he thought, why not do it and show the world that the Buddha was indeed the greatest teacher. So Bhaardhwaj flew up to the sky and took the fish out from the top of the pole without even touching the pole. All those present were awestruck and announced in unison that the Buddha was indeed the greatest teacher.

Later some Bhikchhus who had seen this told the Buddha that he was proclaimed the greatest teacher because of what Bhaardhwaj did. When Buddha heard this, he called Bhaardhwaj and asked him if the story was true. When Bhaardhwaj proudly proclaimed that it was true, Buddha chastised Bhaardhwaj for doing such a thing and proclaimed that from now onwards let it be known whosoever uses Siddhi – Riddhi to impress others is not a disciple of the Buddha. This incident has defined forever the attitude of Buddhism in all its forms towards Siddhi Pratiharya.

Now how is the sixth Avigya called Asrava Cchya Avigya attained? According to all forms of Buddhism there is only one way 'Ekayano Maggo' as it is said in the Pali Satipatthana Sutta. And that way is Vipassyana in Sanskrit/Vipassana in Pali.

Let us now go into Vipassyana. Let me reiterate that all forms of meditation, no matter to which religious system it belongs can be categorised into basically two major types or categories. These two categories are (i) Samatha and (ii) Vipassyana.

We have touched upon Samatha meditation already; but let me recapitulate some of its salient points, before we go into Vipassyana. Samatha meditation is any form of meditation which fixates the mind on one object, or idea, or thing, internal or external, real or imagined. This means keeping the mind fixed or trying to keep the mind fixed so that all other thoughts or movements of the mind is either eliminated or reduced to a great extent to the exclusion of the object of fixation (called Alambana in Buddhist terminology).

  Samyagdristi – the correct view

It is very important to understand that refutation of other’s views is neither negative criticism nor demeaning others’ point of view.

The very first verse of the Patanjala Sutra 'Yogas chittavritti nirodha' (yoga is the stopping of the movements of the mind or thoughts) shows that the Patanjala Sutra and all systems based on it belong to the Samatha category. When I say all systems which subscribes to the Patanjala Sutra, it means virtually all Hindu meditation system existing today in the Indian subcontinent.

One may think the Vedantic meditation on the witness/Sakchi (called Sakchi abhyasa in the Vedantic system) after listening to the teacher, analysing the teachers’ ideas and meditation (called Sravan/mana/chintana) is an exception; but it too is a Samatha type of meditation and cannot be put in the Vipassyana meditation category. To understand why the Vedantic sakchi abhyasa (witness meditation practice) is not Vipassyana we first need to understand clearly what Vipassyana is and why it is the only way to what Buddhists call enlightenment.

Let me reiterate clearly here that people have the freedom to give the appellation ‘enlightenment’ to whatever they wish; but they should not confuse themselves and others in imagining that their enlightenment is the same as the Buddha’s enlightenment. The purpose here is not to demean whatever others call enlightenments but to distinguish between them and the Buddhist enlightenment. Which is the higher form or the true enlightenment is for the individual to discern and ascertain for herself/himself.

Refuting other’s view is an old tradition that has continued in the Indian subcontinent even before the time of the Buddha and this has continued through the centuries within Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. It is very important to understand that refutation of other’s views is neither negative criticism nor demeaning others’ point of view.

The philosophical schools in the Indian subcontinent continued to grow and refine itself exactly because of this culture of refuting the other’s views and validating one’s own views in a systematic, logical and coherent method through centuries after centuries. It is unfortunate that after the Islamic invasion of the Indian subcontinent this aspect of the culture slowly began to wane and because of that many in the Indian subcontinent today, do not know how to distinguish between critical refutation and negative criticism.

But such an ascertainment can be made only if an accurate depiction is made of what the Buddhist Enlightenment is and what is not. Although to the Buddhist all over the world this has always been clear, as Buddhism has a long tradition of studying and analysing what it calls the wrong views (Mithya dristi) and what it calls the correct view (Samyagdristi) it seems to have been lost within the Indian subcontinent to a great extent.

 Correct interpretation of Buddhism

No Hindu scholar, Pandit or Yogi from as early as 3 rd century till today seems to have really understood what the Buddha really taught.

This tradition, where other non Buddhist traditions of the Indian subcontinent is analysed, still continues in Tibet, China, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Mongolia etc. This is very much a culture of the Indian subcontinent; so the tradition of the study of the other tenets does still continue within Hinduism too. However, since Buddhism vanished from the major parts of the Indian subcontinent, the interpretation of what Buddhism and Buddhist enlightenment is, become completely Hinduised; and it was given a lower status than the Vedantic views.

Many Sadhus and Paramhansas claimed that Buddhism was just a variation of the Vedanta and that the Buddhists did not understand Buddhism. Some called it Nihilism and thus put it in the category of rank materialists like Charvak and the like; because they grossly misunderstood the Sunyata of Buddhism.

A thorough and unbiased study of the refutation of Buddhist tenets by Vatsayana, Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Yamunacharya, Madhwacharya, Bhaskaracharya etc; show very clearly that they completely distorted the Buddhist view by giving it a Hinduised interpretation and then refuted their made up Buddhist views and thought they had refuted Buddhism.

No Hindu scholar, Pandit or Yogi from as early as 3 rd century till today seems to have really understood what the Buddha really taught. A good example of modern Hindu scholars who just followed the footsteps of their ancestors as far as the Buddhist goal is concerned, is the famed scholar and statesman, the ex – president of India, Dr. S. Radhakrisnan. Another Indian Guru who unwittingly gave Hindu interpretation to Buddhist teaching even though he was trying to favour Buddhism is another well known personality, Sri Rajneesh.

Till date most Hindus of the Indian subcontinent are completely muddled up as to what Buddhism is; while all the Pandits/scholars/Yogis believe that the Buddha did not teach anything new than what is found in the Vedas and Vedantas. I call this Hindu – hubris, and it is based on the rather limited belief that what the Hindus themselves believe is the only possible truth and there can be no other possibilities.

Nobody with any common sense from the ancient times till now can possibly deny that the Buddha was one of the greatest masters to appear in the firmament of the Indian subcontinent, if not the greatest (Sankara himself has called the Buddha as the greatest yogi ever to appear in the Indian subcontinent). To think what he taught even though it seems to be different, is nothing but a rehashing of Vedic/Vedantic lore, is theblind spot, the hubris.

This has prevented Hindus of the Indian subcontinent, since the 11th century onwards after Buddhism vanished from India, from truly understanding Buddhism. So much so that even Rajneesh who wanted to favor Buddhism vis a vis Hinduism completely interpreted Buddhism in a Hindu way. 


Buddhist scriptures repeat again and again that its basic tenets are based on Anatma and Sunyata and not on Atma/Braman or any eternally existing entity.

A clear example of how Rajneesh did not understand what Buddhism really taught is his interpretation of Tilopa's 'Gangama' (Mahamudra instruction to Naropa) where he thinks Tilopa teaches Naropa the Vedantic Sakchi/witness to Naropa. Evidently Rajneesh had no idea what emptiness meant in Buddhism. He interpreted the thoughtless awareness/witness/Sakchi as the no-mind (Achitta in Vajrachedika Sutra) of Zen. This is a phenomenon, no Indian master who has not studied with genuine Buddhist masters, has been able to transcend.

Since no Indian masters or their Nepali followers have actually studied Buddhism at the feet of an authentic lineage Buddhist master, their interpretation of Buddhism is based on their knowledge of Sanskrit or their reading of English translations of Buddhist texts by scholars who have translated Buddhist texts on the basis of their own knowledge of Sanskrit or Tibetan etc.

Needless to say it is very easy to derive ‘Hinduistic’ meanings when reading such books; after all, the mind gives the meaning it is conditioned to give, to things it experiences. And this is what all teachers of Hindu background have done to date. They have all given Hinduistic Atmavadin/Bramanvadin (oriented towards the Atma/Braman of Hinduism) interpretation in spite of the fact that all the Buddhist scriptures repeat again and again that its basic tenets are based on Anatma and Sunyata and not on Atma/Braman or any eternally existing entity.

This difference is not merely a matter of difference in words or a different way of saying the same thing or difference only in philosophy or in Darshan as most Hindus would like to put it. As it is very important to distinguish these two views to properly understand Vipassyana we shall go a little into its details here before we elaborate on Vipassyana.

All forms of Hindu systems aim at the realisation of the Atma (self) and through it the Braman (which can be described as a sort of cosmic self/over self/super self beyond the little self or ego). In his Dig Drishya Bibek (distinguishing the seer and the seen or the watcher and the watched) Shankaracharya has made it very clear that the Atma of the Hindus (and the Jains for that matter) is the watcher or witness that knows or watches or witnesses all events and even internal mental thoughts.

 And his Tatva Bodha (knowing the Tatva/reality) he has defined this Atma as Sat – Chit – Ananda which means existence – consciousness – bliss. He has again in the same text defined sat/existence as that which remains unchanged / same in the three times. (Atma kah?...What is Atma? Sthula sukchma karana shariradhya atirikta: panchakoshaatita sann avasthatraya sakchi sacchidananda rupah).

That which remains in the form of Sat – Chit – Ananda, which is beyond the gross, subtle and causal body, the witness/watcher of the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep and which is beyond the five sheaths. . 

 The major issue 

This point makes the difference in the direction the meditation takes and finally the goal realised.

Then again Sankaracharya says in the same Tatva Bodha in verse 26 – Atma tahrikah? What is called the Atma? And answers, Sacchidananda swarup, i.e., that whose form (swarup) is Sat – Chit – Ananda. Then he goes on to say, Sat kim (what is sat) and answers, Kala trayeapi tisthatiti sat, i.e., that which remains the same, unchanging in all the three times is sat (truly existent).

The three time means it is the same thing or entity unchanged in anyway in the past, present and future. Before we go further we need to make it clear that this is the major issue that Buddhism has with all forms of Hinduism or Jainism (or for that matter any forms of religious beliefs which believe in an unchanging entity called a soul that survives death etc.) We shall deal with this sat – atma (a really, truly – inherently existent Atma) in greater details as that in crucial to understand the crux of the matter related to Vipassyana and Buddhism.

Let me reiterate here that this is not merely a difference in words but this point makes the difference in the direction the meditation takes and finally the goal realised. Sankaracharya goes on to define 'chit' of sat – chit – ananda. Thus, Chit kim? (What is Chit?) Gyanswarupa which means that which is the form of knowledge. Knowledge means the knower in the Vedantic context as is made clear in Dig Drishya Vivek (discriminating the watcher and the watched), the Laghu Vakya Vritti (the short commentary on the words)/ the Vakya Vritti (the commentary on the words.

The words here means the four Mahavakya – The four great words of the Vedas which are used to point out the Atma/self), the Atma Gyanopadesh (the instructions on the knowledge of the self) all of Sankaracharya and all the Upanishads of the Veda.

Although I have quoted Sankaracharya, according to Dr. S P Radhakrishnan (the ex-president of India and a great Hindu scholar), there is no form of Hinduism today which does not take the Sankara view of the Vedanta as the ultimate goal of Hinduism, albeit various schools have modified it to fit in their own system.

So the shortest way to understand most of Hinduism is to understand Sankara, although the (Dvaitavadin) dualist Madhava School and the Visistadvaitavadin (special Monistic school of Ramanujacharya differs from Sankara’s Monism (Advaitavadin) view quite drastically we cannot possibly go into all the details and the difference and the attempts to integrate the two modes (dualistic and Monistic) here, as that would require a book by itself.

So I shall agree with Dr. Radhakrisnan and compare only the Sankara view of Hinduism with Buddhism. Anyway, in one sense the Dvaitavadin (dualism) of Madhvacharya, the Vishistaadvaita (special Monism) of Ramanujacharya, the Bhedaabhedavaada (different and same – ism) of Bhaskaracharya etc are even more drastically different from Buddhism than Sankaras’ view. Of all forms of Hinduism those who subscribe to one form or the other of Monism (Advaitavad) come closest to the Buddhist view of Advaya (non – dualism).


Both Sankara and Buddhism agree that one needs to have the correct view...

Before we can proceed, we need to clarify many points before things can be clear to the layman. Monism or the Advaitavada of Sankaracharya or Shaivism or Shaktism is the view that there is one ultimate primordial first cause of all things which is one’s true self.

This is the primordial thing (Mahavastu), the first cause of all things from which everything appears and disappears into. How they appear and disappear is again interpreted slightly differently by the different schools of Hindus. Sankara, say they appear and disappear as an illusion and this is called the Vivartavada (illusionist) interpretation.

Some like the Shaktas and Kashmir Shaiva say the coming and going of all things is more like a modification of the primordial matter and this is called the Parinamvada. However, they all agree that this primordial matter/thing (Mahavastu) is one’s own true self (Atma – Brahman).

And one is liberated only by the knowledge of this primordial thing which is called self knowledge. Here, it is important to distinguish Sankara from some of the Yoga schools in that Sankara does not agree that practicing yogas of any kind alone can lead to self knowledge (Atma Gyan) which liberates.

So we have the Vichara – Marga of Sankara which posits that unless one distinguishes through analysis (Vichara) as laid out in the Upanishads; the false, impermanent [anitya] (the world) and the true, permanent[nitya] (Atma), just going into samadhi alone does not and cannot liberate a person.

This is a crucial matter in the Sankar Vedanta and some followers have even taken it to the extreme by declaring that only fools (Mudhas) practice meditation and the various yogas and Samadhis, and that the wise using only her/his Viveka (analysis) to distinguish the Atma (self) from the non – self (Anatma) and recognising the self/Atma, attains liberation.

So ignorance (Agyan/Avidhya) is the non – realisation/non – recognition/not knowing the Atma/self which is ones’ own true self; and liberation is attained by knowledge (Gyan) which is the recognition, knowing of one’s true self. Here Sankara is similar to Buddhism in its tenet that unless one has the correct view (Samyagdristi) one cannot attain enlightenment by means of meditating.

Merely meditating would be Samatha meditation within the Buddhist context. So both Sankara and Buddhism agree that one needs to have the correct view (Samyagdristi if we were to use Buddhist terminology) if one is to be enlightened (Bodha which is commonly used by Buddhist and Hindus). Samyagdristi is the first part of the Astangika Marga as prescribed by the Buddha.

But now we come to the crux of the matter. What is this Samyagdristi? This is where Buddhism parts from all forms of Hinduism and Jainism and for that matter all other religious system which posit an eternal unchanging self/Atma/soul.

A very simplified version of Sankara Vedanta 

Sankara’s Vedantic view has been interpreted with slightly different nuances by his own disciples or their disciples…

What the Buddha meant by Samyagdristi is drastically different from what Sankara and the rest of Hinduism, no matter how different or similar to Sankara, mean by Samyagdristi. Hinduism does not use the word Samyagdristi but it does have what it calls the correct view.

And what is the correct view of Sankara? That only Atma Gyan can liberate. This Atma is Sat – Chit – Ananda; and the watcher/witness (Drasta/Sakchi) of the three states etc., about which Sankara talked about. (Not recognising – Pratyabhigya, is the word used in the Kashmir Shaivism). This Atma/self is ignorance; and knowing/recognising it, is self knowledge (Atma gyan) which produces liberation. In the Kashmir Shaivism, this self is called Shiva or Sambhavi Vidhya.

Now I want to make it clear that I have presented a very simplified version of Sankara Vedanta and many sophisticated factors involved have not been mentioned in this article. The Vedanta is a very sophisticated system and such a short article as this cannot do full justice to it. But for our purpose, just this much is enough. In fact if we go into the detailed sophistication of the Vedanta, it actually goes even further away from the Buddhist correct view.

In all forms of Vedanta, recognising the watcher/witness/knower (Drasta/Sakchi/Gyata) of the three states of dreaming, walking and deep sleep, which is beyond the five sheaths of body (Pancha kosha) and beyond the gross subtle and causal body, as ones own true/self is considered as Atma – gyan. And the practice is to continuously affirm that you are that (Tut tvam asi), that this witness/watcher (Sakchi/Drasta) is one’s own Atma (Pragyanam Braman = that which knows is the Braman); Ayam Atma Braman (this self is the Braman) and I am the Braman (Aham Bramasmi).

In this system, the practice of any kind of yoga – meditation – Samadhi is of value only in so far as it helps to quieten the thinking mind so that the Sakchi/Drasta can be distinguished more easily from all that which is not the Atma (Nityanitya vivek - distinguishing the eternal and the impermanent).

All systems within Hinduism which calls itself Advaita (monistic/non dualistic) prescribes to the view of Sankara which I have presented above, in one form or the other. Sankara’s Vedantic view itself has been interpreted with slightly different nuances by his own disciples or their disciples; so it should not be a big surprise if the Shaivadvaita system of the Kashmir Shaiva school is a slightly different form of the above and they do not agree with Sankara in all points. Likewise, the same can be said of Shaktaadvaita of the Shakta Sampradaya; and even schools of Kabir and the like.

The meeting point of all these Hindu or semi – Hindu system is that they all believe that this watcher/witness/knower (Drasta – Sakchi – Gyata) which is the ultimate knower of all outer and inner events/things/etc is the ultimate Atma (self which is eternal, unchanging i.e. Sat)


While the Sankara Vedanta calls the witness, the Atma; other systems of Hinduism have their own names for it.


Even Sri Rajneesh (Osho) who attempted to interpret Buddhist scriptures could not go beyond this ultimate watcher (which is a very Hinduistic notion). In spite of his attempt to present Buddhism to the Indian subcontinent (and the world at large) in a favorable angle; all he did was re-interpret the various Buddhist Sutra and Sastras in a Hinduistic way, without ever realising it.

This consciousness/watcher, the Chit of Sat – Chit – Ananda is a very important aspect of the Hindu view. This can be seen not only from Sankaracharya’s writings which I have illustrated above; but also from those texts of Hindu background which have attempted to refute the Buddhist view. In most of them, we find that they have completely misunderstood the emptiness of Buddhism and they try to show that a liberation that is empty and unconscious cannot be the real liberation and liberation by nature must be of the nature of knowledge (Gyanamaya). Such Hindu writings show a clear misunderstanding of the purport of Sunyata/emptiness in Buddhism or for that matter impermanence, non – self, and Dukha.

We have dealt with the Chit aspect of Sat – Chit – Ananda; and now finally as this really existing watcher (Sat – Chit) is without thoughts, it is bliss (Ananda). Although there are many other view within Hinduism besides the Advaita view of Sankara and those influenced by it, they are, first of all, further away from the Buddhist view as their view entails a belief in a supreme god from whom the watcher/or individual self sparks out etc.

Secondly, since most learned Hindu scholars like ex-president Dr.Radha Krishnan, Dr. S.N. Das Gupta, Swami Vivekananda, and many others consider the Sankara Advaita Vedanta view as the acme of Hindu view; I feel it sufficient to compare only this view with the Buddhist view to show how the two are totally different systems of meditation/action/ and experience, if not contradictory.

While the Sankara Vedanta calls the witness, the Atma, other systems of Hinduism have their own names for it. For example, the Kashmir Shaiva School calls this knowledge Shambhavi Vidhya instead of Atma – Gyan, but in essence they are talking about the same watcher/Drasta; and some other systems call this same watcher, Para Vidhya or Para Samvit.

There are hundreds of other names given to this watcher in the various sects of Hinduism; just as Paraa in the mantra systems which goes from outer sounds Vaikhari to Madhyama (inner sounds and lights) to Pasyanti (the watcher of all these sounds and lights) to final Para which is the super conscious macrocosmic watcher by itself. But we need not go into all of them as that would entail writing a book, which is not our purpose.)

  Crux of Buddhism 

…Recognising the watcher as the truly existing ultimate substance and identifying oneself with it will only lead to further continuity of Sansara, not liberation.

Now all these systems claim that watcher/witness is your real nature (Tat tvam asi = That thou art) and to continually affirm I am that (Aham Bramasmi = I am the Braman) until I identify fully and completely with that watcher/witness etc. All Hindu meditations are geared towards helping the person to realise or recognise this watcher and finally to merge one’s self into this watcher or to completely identify oneself with it.

With this background let us compare this view and its meditation and its goal with the Buddhist view, meditation, goal. We have seen that in the Hindu system, ignorance (Agyan) is not to recognise or know this watcher which is one’s true self as opposed to the false self called ego (Ahamkara). According to this system, liberation is attained by recognising this watcher within and identifying oneself with it until one is fully identified with it. And all meditation is used to help in this process.

Sankara is very clear that just meditating alone without the correct view is not enough. He says in his Tatva Bodh (knowing the Tatva/principle) Nityanitya Vivek, there should be the distinguishing of Nitya (the unchanging) and the Anitya (the changing). Those systems which do not agree to this cannot be called Advaita (monistic/non dual).

Before I begin the view of Buddhism, I want to distinguish between Monism which is the view of the Advaita Vedanta and non dualism of Nagarjuna. Although some writers have also used the word non – dualism for Sankara’s Advaita; that creates a lot of confusion.

 The Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines monism as a view that there is only one kind of ultimate substance. This is exactly the Sankara Vedanta or any other form of Advaita within Hinduism. This ultimate substance is the watcher, the super-conscious substance, Braman/Mahavastu.

Now the Advaya (sometimes also called the Advaita of Nagarjuna) is not a monistic view in the sense neither Nagarjuna nor any form of Buddhism posits one ultimate substance in any form. In fact if we were to express the Buddhist view in an over simplified way, we can say that the correct view of Buddhism is to see/recognise that there is no one ultimate monistic substance anywhere to be found.

Note that Buddhism does not say that there is no awareness etc., as some Hindu critique of Buddhism have implied in their refutation of Buddhism; but rather that, that watcher/awareness is not the ultimate substance and furthermore neither recognising that watcher nor becoming one with it liberates man. In fact according to Buddhism recognising the watcher as the truly existing ultimate substance and identifying oneself with it will only lead to further continuity of Sansara, not liberation.

To understand this point of view is to understand the crux of Buddhism and thus to see how Buddhism is poles apart from any system which expounds any kind of one and only ultimate substance, conscious or unconscious – and that virtually includes must of the world’s religious systems.

Difference in Karma

No one is high or low by birth, but becomes high or low by virtue of his/her qualities (Guna) and hard work.

We have been talking about Samatha and in the context of Samatha we started talking about Riddhi – Pratiharya (Riddhi-Siddhi as it is popularly known in the Hindu culture). In the explanation of Riddhi Pratiharya we said there are five main types of Aviggya which are called worldly Pratiharya (Laukik Pratiharya) and there is a sixth Aviggya which is the knowledge of the extinction of Asava/Klesha (emotional and intellectual defilements).

In Buddhism this fifth is the only true Siddhi, all the rest are only like a childish play. In the context of the sixth Aviggya, we came upon the logic of correct view (Samyag Dristi) and Vipassyana. To distinguish what is meant by the correct view in Buddhism we went into details to clarify the non-Buddhist Advaita Vedantic view, so that it can be seen clearly what is not the Buddhist view.

I have taken great pains to distinguish the Vedantic Advaita view so that it can be clearly distinguished from pure Buddhist view, like a piece of hair being extracted from butter. There are many other Hindu-Jain views too, but they are so drastically different from the Buddhist view that I do not feel the need to elaborate or distinguish them.

Hinduism as a whole believes in a creator-god. Buddhism believes all such beliefs are mere wishful thinking. Hinduism believes in castes and classes as ordained by some divine power (specifically Brahma in the Vedic system itself but in Hinduism later, it gets a bit mixed up with other ideas). 

In Buddhism, there are no castes or class differences and whatever differences there are between men is a result of each person’s own karma and certainly those differences are not permanent or given by some divine agent. They were created by one’s own actions (Karma), so one can change it without any special divine being’s will. So, those differences can be changed through the Karma (further actions) of the individual.

To believe that a Brahmin or a Chettri’s child is of higher level even if it has an IQ of 70 or 80, while a so called lower caste person’s child is a lower being even if it has an IQ of above 130 is absurd to not only Buddhism but also to any rational, thinking person. No one is high or low by birth, but becomes high or low by virtue of his/her qualities (Guna) and hard work.

And it is the qualities that a sane society should value and not some imagined high birth. Not everybody is an Einstein or Picasso, Tansen or Edison, Devkota or Beethoven. We cannot possibly say millions of other people are equal to them and therefore we/the society shall not honour them in the name of equality. However, Einstein and Beethoven were not born to any specific caste.


Wisdom matters, not caste or class 

“Why can’t he (a washerman) be a guru if he has Gyana (Wisdom)?”

No statistics have shown that certain castes have produced more Einsteins, given equal opportunities. It may be true to some extent that in the Indian subcontinent there have been more Bramin scholars than non Bramins in the past; but that is because of the blind caste system which ensured that only Bramins got the chance to study and the lower castes were discouraged to the point of being punished or excommunicated from the society if they even attempted to be scholars.

Why, barely 30 or 40 years ago my own grandparents told me I shouldn’t study the Bhagavat Gita otherwise I would go mad and that it should be left to the Bahuns. To Buddhism, all such notions are blindness. That is why the Buddha purposely ordained the haircutter of the Sakyas, Udayi before the other Sakyas, (the ruling Kshetriyas) so that they would be forced to respect them. In Buddhism, amongst Bhikchus, it is the rule of seniority that whoever is ordained first must be respected by those ordained later.

Once, when the Buddha was going down the street, a lower class sweeper saw him coming and backed off in fear because the Buddha was of a high princely class. This was due to fear of coming close to the princely class. But the Buddha went close to him and told him, he need not fear him. The Buddha did not treat his own son Rahula in any special way or any differently from other Bikchus. Rahula, who was an Arhat and had all the qualities, did not become Buddha’s heir in power either.

However, belief in class and caste seem to be human follies prevalent everywhere. Even in some communist states whose principles are supposed to be classless and finally stateless, we find brothers and sons are chosen as heirs instead of those who really have the qualities. In the Indian subcontinent this folly appears to have grown out of control and has spread like cancer.

And sad to say it still influences the thinking of even the so called educated. I remember a long debate with the famous Hindu Swami, Khaptad Baba, who was supposed to be a medical doctor who could not accept the fact that the Balyogeshwar group had made a Doma (washerman) a guru across the border in India Pithoragada.

He kept saying “How can a Dom be a spiritual guru?’ And I kept asking him “Why can’t he be a guru if he has Gyana (wisdom)?” and the only answer he could repeat was, “How can a Doma have Gyana?” When I pointed out to him that most of the famous Rishis (seers) were born of fisherwomen or born in other similar castes, he just gave me a nervous laughter as his reply. 

Disease of mankind 

Indeed, for as long as human beings or all societies are not freed from greed, hatred, from clinging to me or mine, and conditioned ideas (Sanskaras); the production of a classless society is only a dream. Mere intellectual acumen and knowledge does not free men from these afflictions.

While social changes from the outside do contribute to the upliftment of man in many ways, it alone does not liberate man from his negative qualities. Man also needs an inner transformation without which all outer transformation are only extraneous and does not free him. The change must come from within first.

For example, we cannot have a peaceful society or peace in the world when individuals in the society are not at peace even within their own selves. For individuals to be at peace, they would first have to learn the art of freeing themselves from greed, hatred, passion and clinging to their self (Atman) and clinging to conditioned ideas, which separate man from man and breed hatred for the other castes or classes.

They would need to free themselves from inner insecurities, complexes, neurosis and conditioning (Sanskar). Without being free from one’s own inner turmoil, one cannot be peaceful in one’s social interactions.

Society is made up of individuals. There is no such thing as a society without individuals as there are no forests without trees. Trying to make a forest of sick trees into a botanical garden, surrounded by high walls and guards and other material trappings to surround it only covers the illness of the trees. It does not transform the forest.

The disease of mankind is inside the man. What is seen outside is manifestation of his diseases. So merely changing the outer conditions will help only so much and not more. A miser will continue to be a miser even if he becomes a millionaire. The miserliness does not go away if he becomes rich. He will just become a miserly millionaire. Likewise, an angry person will not cease to be angry if he becomes the richest person overnight. His money and all his comforts will not free him of his anger. So it is with all other conditionings.

This is not to say that there is no value in uplifting society in whatever ways in its external conditions. There is definitely great value in it which cannot be under estimated. But mere external physical changes do not bring peace to man. There is an entire different world to which man belongs which will not be touched or is barely scratched by only external changes; as all forms of psychotherapy have proven amply.

Even multi-millionaires are not happy or at peace with themselves and with the world; and some of them have committed suicide. The American statistics show that millionaires form the highest category among those who commit suicide. Why would someone who has everything be so unhappy so as to take one’s own life? This gives rise to the question whether a society could really be peaceful if all its members became multi-millionaires and had all the physical comforts at their disposal.

Balanced growth

Once outer hunger is appeased, inner hunger must also be taken care of, for a man to be happy.

Do people really need money, the dream house and other consumer goods that advertisements have conditioned them to believe are necessary for their happiness? Do we need an unhappy, apathetic society which has only its material needs fulfilled or should we aspire towards a peaceful society that is free from greed, hatred and other emotional defilements, at least to some extent?

This is not to say that inner development excludes material development but both ought to complement each other. As the Buddha said hunger is the greatest disease and the Dharma cannot be taught to a hungry stomach. Every individual needs food, shelter, money etc., but Dharma (the need for peak experiences and self actualisation, inner growth and transformation) is also one of the needs that should be fulfilled. Once outer hunger is appeased, inner hunger must also be taken care of, for a man to be happy. It is only after this that a man can be creative.

When individuals in a group are at peace, we have a peaceful group. And when a group in a society is at peace, we have a peaceful society. There can be no peaceful society when individuals are not at peace with themselves. This peace by its very nature cannot be forced or bribed from the outside. Only inner work, inner change/transformation can bring it.

It is also true that this inner work cannot be fully successful as long as external social conditions are not salubrious to it. We cannot undertake inner transformation of the individuals in a society where hunger is rampant or suppression of freedom, of growth and everything these entail take place!

So there must be a balanced growth on both sides. It is the inner growth and the freedom of man from his inner chains basically that Buddhism deals with. Although all forms of religions basically attempt to do exactly that in various ways, i.e., provide peace to man, the methods have been different. At one level, all religious systems are the same in that they all prescribe not to steal, not to murder, etc., and that is the first step to inner peace. This is the Shila aspect of the Buddhist three trainings.

As the Buddha said, "Sarva paapasya akaranani kushalasya upasampadaa." - not doing evil and doing good works. Without this society cannot exist. Although it seems simple, it is normally very difficult for man to follow it because of his own internal conflicts which have not been resolved.

So we need police to police the society. But as long as nothing is done to take care of these inner conflicts police will always be required. The more people in a society become free from these inner conflicts the less we need the police. As long as there are police in any form there is no stateless society. This is a very simple equation. Even if everything physical has been provided, as long as inner conflicts are not resolved, even a multimillionaire will steal from a supermarket. So we need resolution of inner conflicts of the individual and not only merely of external circumstances/situations/conditions (which of course are necessary) as some rank materialistics envision.

 Calming the mind

The more regularly one meditates the more relaxed one's physical-mental system becomes.

We also need to calm the mind, and meditation in all and sundry forms be it Hindu, Sufi, Jain, Taoist, Hashidic, Kahuna or Christian meditation, all do this work. Without a pacified mind there is no contentment and peace, even if all the physical and material needs are met.

Merely following injunctions of not killing, not stealing etc., can pacify mind only so much. Beneath, the inner waves of the mind are still running wild. And as long as the mind is running amok, it can easily break out into unsocial behaviours like stealing, looting, killing etc. So the Buddha said, So Chitta Paryopadapanam - bring the mind under control, to pacify the mind.

This is where meditation comes into play. There are two major categories of meditation: Samatha meditation and Vipassyana meditation, according to Buddhism. All forms of religion are similar and produce almost the same results as far as Samatha meditation is concerned.

It is not only that ancient religious schools say meditation is of great value; but today modern brain science also has discovered the immense value of meditation for relaxation, stress release, development of capacity to handle stress, creativity and general health. It would be utter nonsense to claim that only Buddhist meditators produce all the above results. All forms of Samatha meditation produce the same results.

In scientific terminology all Samatha meditations take the mind from beta waves which are the brain waves produced when we are in our so called 'normal' day to day activity; to alpha waves, which means the mind is relaxed. In such a state, the stress accumulated during the day is released or the mind is prepared and fresh to deal with the stress life presents to all individuals.

The world renowned Dr. Herbert Spencer MD calls it the relaxation response. Regular meditation produces what is called the relaxation response which means the mind is trained to respond more and more quickly to relax when one meditates regularly. The more regularly one meditates the more relaxed one's physical-mental system becomes. Needless to say the more relaxed one is, the more peaceful one will be, with less outside irritants affecting one's nerves. As I mentioned earlier, no particular Samatha type meditation is more effective than the other in producing this response. All religious systems have one form or the other of Samatha meditation. Even prayers can quieten the mind to some extent but not to the same degree as meditations. But sometimes prayers can be so deep that they become a form of lower level meditation.

Deep levels of relaxation

Such experiences are often mistaken for spiritual experiences or in some cases even claimed to be enlightenment.

Even in Samatha meditation there are degrees. The deeper the level of absorption (Samatha) the deeper the level of relaxation response produced in the neuro-bio chemical system of the body and thus in the mind, which is undeniably interdependent on and interlinked with the neuro-bio-chemical body.

In scientific terminology, alpha waves begin to form at 14 hertz and go down to depths of 8 hertz. So if you close your eyes and relax you will start sinking towards 14 hertz. But you probably won't be able to sink below 13 hertz or so by just closing your eyes and relaxing, you need methods devised through thousands of years to sink all the way to 8 hertz and even below that.

The upper echelons of the alpha waves can be achieved easily by a lot of methods and they are all as effective as other methods. Usually, people who have been stuck in the beta wave mode are normally stressed out and have never/seldom experienced even the upper alpha modes of relaxed state (14/13/12 Hertz or so) feel profound release; if through any one of the ancient or recently developed method of meditations, they manage to enter the realm of alpha waves.

Such experiences are often mistaken for spiritual experiences or in some cases even claimed to be enlightenment! After years of regular dedicated practice, you can manage to have even more profound states of relaxations and deeper experiences provided the method is correct. Let it be said that even those deeper experiences are far from enlightenment!

As you go deeper into various levels of deeper Samadhi, you sink into theta brain wave patterns. From theta at 8 hertz, you can go deeper and deeper into relaxation all the way up to 4 hertz. But that requires a good technical method and a good technician (that is what a qualified guru is about) to arrive at such deep levels of relaxation.

At such levels, profound catharsis can take place which is more complex than the laughing or crying types of catharsis that takes place in the outer alpha levels brought about by most meditation methods. Obviously, again, we need a good technician (which is what a guru is also, although not limited to that alone) to deal with it properly. As the person goes into deeper levels of Samadhi, he enters the delta brain wave levels. Delta waves range from below 4 hertz to 1 hertz. But delta levels are available only to Samatha meditations. The Vipassyana meditators never enter the delta level. At the delta level, all thoughts subside and the mind enters peaceful sleep like state somewhat akin to the deep sleep without dreams. At such a level the entire neural system is replenished, refreshed and recharged. Experiments have been done on Indian Kundalini Yogis and it has been found that they enter delta wave states when they are in their deepest Samadis as I have mentioned before.

 Suppressed Kleshas

Even if the person reaches a high state of absorption in the watcher, like with all Samatha meditation techniques, the Kleshas, clinging, grasping, neurosis of the mind are only submerged or stopped under the waves of bliss, they are not uprooted.

Only the most advanced Samatha meditators reach this stage. This is the Nirvikalpa Samadhi of the Hindu Kundalini yoga, where the person is literally dead to the world for a long period. Even flies are said to be fooled and enter the person's nostrils.

By Kundalini yoga, we mean the type that Santa Gyaneswar has described in the Gyaneshvari Gita and not the types of the so called Kundalini yoga prevalent in the market today. Such bazaar - Kundalini types could hardly take you to the first levels of alpha waves, leave alone the deep levels of delta waves.

In the Gyaneswari, Santa Gyaneswar explains that when the Kundalini begins to rise up, the skin, nails and hair of the person begin to melt away. The person begins to look like a leper and that is why it has to be practiced away from the society with the support of those who know about the process. It is said one should not keep a mirror with oneself as looking at oneself in such a condition would disturb or frighten the meditator profoundly and the shock may unbalance him so much that he may go crazy.

But as the Kundalini rises higher up, the entire body is rejuvenated; and balding, graying hair becomes black again and the tone of the skin becomes like that of a sixteen year old. These are just some of the outer symptoms while the mind goes through various levels of Samadhi.

In my personal talks with the famous Khaptad Baba, he explained that it was the only real Kundalini yoga and that he himself had experienced all that was written by Sant Gyaneswar. Needless to say no such results external or internal has been heard or seen regarding any of the so called Bazaar Kundalini yoga methods, created by smart marketing managers.

This delta level is also entered by Buddhist Yogavacharas who enter the fourth Dhyanas and their corollaries the four higher levels of formless Dhyanas - the infinite expanse of empty space, the infinite expanse consciousness, the no remainder and finally the neither perception nor non perception states of deep meditation.

However, when one enters the delta levels through whatever technique, all neurosis, clinging, grasping are only smothered by the peaceful delta waves. The body feels very peaceful, all neurosis, Kleshas seem to go away but actually they have only been suppressed and have not gone away. This is true even in the practice of becoming the watcher (Sakchyaabhyaas) as posited by Sankara Vedanta.

Even if the person reaches a high state of absorption in the watcher, like with all Samatha meditation techniques, the Kleshas, clinging, grasping, neurosis of the mind are only submerged or stopped under the waves of bliss, they are not uprooted. The Buddhist word for such suppression is Biskhambana which technically means blocking.

Ignorance – innate clinging to I and mine

The neurosis have only been thoroughly suppressed temporarily and can come out any time given the cause and conditions.

So the neurosis (Kleshas) are only blocked from being manifested but not really destroyed and thus the person is not really free from it. Thus such a person is not even a Srotappana; forget the higher stages of the Buddhist enlightenment like the Arhat or the Buddha.

Hindu mythical stories (Puranas) more than amply testify to the fact that seers (Rishis) who were supposed to be in deepest Samadhis for thousands of years and so on often flared up in anger, destroyed cities and were ridden with emotions like jealousy etc. Since ignorance which in Buddhist terminology is the innate clinging to the concept of self (Atman) and mine (Atmiya); and all the neurosis that branches out of it is are only suppressed and not uprooted in even deepest levels of Samadhi. So, no matter how blissful the person is, he is not liberated yet at the deepest levels and thus is notenlightened.

This ignorance is technically called Sahaja Atman Graha. Here we are talking about deep levels of Samadhi which reach delta levels, forget about the superficial practices which heighten awareness and make mind thoughtless temporarily which is mistaken for the 'nomind of Buddhism' by many who have no real knowledge of Buddhism.

Needless to say such practices can take you only to the surface levels of alpha waves, which is just the beginning. Many are led to believe that such awareness without thoughts is the enlightened state. Well, it must be said clearly that this is not Buddhist enlightenment. And people who have reached the genuine Samadhis have not yet freed themselves from hatred, passion, self clinging and so on.

They have only been thoroughly suppressed temporarily and can come out any time given the cause and conditions. If a person is fully enlightened these are uprooted and cannot appear again no matter what the outer circumstances are. There is more to be said about this later as this is a very subtle point and crucial to understand correct Buddhism. So the big question is: what is the method of uprooting the root of ignorance and all that goes with it? The Buddhist answer to this is Vipashyana called Vippassana in Pali. It is called Lhagthong in Tibetan, Kuan in Chinese, Kan in Korean, Khan in Japanese. Before we go to Vipassyana, I would like to finish a related topic to meditation and the human need to search for some higher thing - be it called god, Tao or enlightenment.

The world renowned psychologist Maslow called this the highest need of man and called it self actualisation needs. It is important for ultra materialists to know that hunger and shelter and status etc are not the only basic needs of man. Man has an inherent need for self actualisation - to seek for something higher than the material world. For any society to be at peace and to be a successful society, this need must be provided for. These needs are as important and as pressing to man as his hunger and shelter needs.

Hard wired into brain

Man does not live by bread alone as Christ said.

Any materialist who thinks man will be satisfied once his lower basic needs are satisfied does not understand the modus operandi of the human system. After his basic needs are met, man will by his very nature seek satisfaction of his higher needs and that according to Abraham Maslow is self actualisation needs. Man does not live by bread alone as Christ said. After he gets bread, he looks for something that is more fulfilling thatenriches his life.

He yearns to enrich his experience. Just more bread or better quality bread or more butter does not fulfill that need. This is what ultra materialists need to realise. Self actualisation need is not satisfied by the attainment of luxury; if anything added luxury only aggravates the need for self actualisation. Ample proof of this is the high rate of suicides among multi-millionaires who find that their ultimate need is not satisfied with all the material goods and comforts that money can buy.

Around the mid 80s, I remember a young girl of 18 who had won millions of dollars in the American lottery. Her name and interview appeared in The Times and Newsweek. Around six months later, both the magazines reported she committed suicide. If material needs are all that man needs to be happy and satisfied in life, this girl had it all and that too at an early age. That she committed suicide proved money did not make her happy. Man has basic needs for what Maslow calls peak experience or flow. These are as basic as food and shelter, and man can never feel fulfilled until s/he has access to it. This is not only an unproven hypothesis but proven through hard statistics and hard core sciences like the brain science. Brain neurologist Andrew Neuberg and Eugene Daquili and others have shown that man is neurally wired to seek for the higher experiences.

They have written a book, Why God Won't Go Away. Here, God does not necessarily mean some Creator God with a white beard sitting up on his throne looking down on man. What they mean is that man is neurally wired to seek for higher experiences, mystical experiences, peak experiences, the flow etc. It is a hard wiring that will not go away by whatever external threats that try to deny or control it; just as the need for food and shelter does not go away even if a gun were pointed at it.

Both these needs are hard wired into the neural system and so needs to be fulfilled. This wiring, by the way, is not found in animals but only in humans so it is a sign of higher evolution which would mean that those who show signs of spiritual needs of any kind and follow up on it are moving forward in evolution while those who forcibly deny any kind of spiritual aspirations are regressive to the needs of evolution.

And this is exactly what/how/why religious systems developed - to fulfill this need. All religious systems fulfill these needs to some extent or the other. But there are degrees of the flow, degrees of letting go, of self actualisation etc.; and here we have differences in various systems. The method to achieve flow/self actualisation/letting go/ etc., in all systems is more or less through prayers and meditations of different kinds.

Different peaks

Although one can climb up different paths, it does not necessarily reach the top of the same mountain.

A man who has never experienced a peak experience in his life or experienced flow is a poor man even if s/he has all the material riches. Needless to say, people who spend their life suffering from hunger, selfish needs, greed, hatred and the like cannot experience flow or self actualisation or peak experiences. That is why all religious systems have these injunctions - not to kill, not to steal etc., as their basic tenets.

But these are just the foundations; they do not necessarily provide peak experiences on their own, although it has its social values. If such injunctions did not exist in any form, a man could just move around freely and do what s/he wished, meaning what his or her ego wants at the moment, and there would be no stable society as such as there would be no reason to worry about the social implications of one's actions.

It is also very important to understand clearly a point in which there has been a lot of confusion, especially, in the religious milieu of the Indian subcontinent. It is true that there are many paths and it also true that these various paths do benefit man in various ways; but all paths do not reach the same goal and they do not necessarily take one towards the same goal.

There seems to be an unconscious tendency within Hinduism that all religious systems ultimately teach the same thing - that there are many paths leading up to the top of the same mountain. And the implication within Hinduism and those influenced by this kind of thinking is that - that mountain is the Hindu - Vedic mountain, as if there was no possibility of existence of any other mountain. This logic is fundamentally flawed in many ways. One flaw is that it presumes all paths are climbing the same mountain, which is just an assumption, not a proven fact. Wherever you dig, you may find 'water' but all water from different wells are not necessarily exactly the same. Water from different places would taste different and have different qualities.

Although one can climb up different paths, it does not necessarily reach the top of the same mountain. One cannot claim that all peaks of all mountains are the same. Another flaw in this thinking is the unconscious assumption that all systems lead to the same place where 'my' systems leads. In other words, there cannot be any other system besides 'my' system and therefore other paths are mere variations or branches of the path 'I' follow. It is like claiming, the human mind cannot possibly develop any other path and goals than the ones that 'I' know or the one 'I' follow. This form of thinking is a very subtle form of intolerance disguised as ultimate tolerance!

This is not to say that no other paths but Buddhism can give peace to mind to its practitioners. Far from it; but the goal of Buddhism goes beyond just peace of mind. Within the Indian subcontinent after the 19th century, after Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Vivekananda, the concept that all paths lead to the same peak began to spread and today virtually every Swami, Paramahamsa etc., claim that all paths lead to the same goal which means (and this has been explicitly said) that Buddhism and Hinduism both lead to the same place.

This tendency had already begun in the Yoga Vashistha which claims that the Vigyan of the Vigyanvadin and the Sunyata of the Madhyamika is the same as the Brahman of the Vedas etc. Now let us analyse such statements. These statements and such others made by latter day Swamis mean that the Brahman of the Veda/Vedanta is the one and only highest truth and that the meaning of Sunyata or Vigyan is Brahman as the Hindus believe it. It does not by any means mean that the Braman which is Sat-Chit-Anand (Satmeans really existing in the three times) is Sunyata (not really existing) in the Buddhist sense.

Sunyata (Emptiness)

If we were to accept Brahman as not really existing then Sankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Bhaskaracharya, Nimbarkacharya, Yamunacharya would all collapse. No Hindu who has understood what Brahman/Atman means would or could agree it does not really exist or it has no real existence. So what is the meaning of Sunyata or the Sunya which is the same as the Braman of the Vedas/Vedantas according to the Yogavashitha? It means, Sunyata (emptiness) does not really mean what the Buddhists mean it to be but is really what Hindus mean it to be. Such thinking is totally unfair to the Buddhists. In the subcontinent Hindus want to be friends of Buddhists but go around trying to force their theories (Siddhantas) down the throats of Buddhists without even realising it. Many Swamis do not seem to realise that when they say Buddhist Sunyata and the Hindu Braman are the same thing; they are in effect trying to force the Buddhists to become Brahmanvadins by giving a Hindu interpretation of Sunyata. Virtually every Hindu or Hindu oriented guru has done this over the last two centuries. And they don't seem to realise this is not really being tolerant of Buddhism but is rather trying to force Buddhism within the Bramavadin banner, which anybody who has studied even a little of Buddhism can tell is not true. Because of this many Hindus fail to understand why Buddhists do not agree when they say Brahman and Sunyata are the same and they only differ in words. We shall see later why they cannot be the same. But here the point we are driving at is different. This is not tolerance at all, as a lot of Hindus think it to be; but rather a forced distortion of Buddhist views to fit within the Hindu views and thus a subtle form of intolerance of other views which do not fit within 'our' paradigm. How would Bramavadin Hindus think or feel if a Buddhist said that the Hindu view of Brahman actually means there is no - Atman (Anatman) and Brahman actually means there is no really existing ultimate thing anywhere, there is no ultimately unchanging sub-stratum to this universe, therefore what the Hindus mean by Brahman is what we mean by Sunyata? This new definition of Brahman/Atman contradicts the entire Prasthan Trayi (the three pillars) which are the Bhagwat Gita, Brahman Sutra and the Upanishads. All three say the Brahman/Atman is something unchanging that remains so in all three times (past, present and future) and it really exits (Paramaartha Satta). The Buddhist Sunyata, if it is understood properly is exactly the opposite. Sunyata is not a thing like Brahman nor is a super thing (Mahavastu) beyond thing and non thing. It is the mode of existence of all phenomenons (Dharma Sthiti). Brahman cannot by any definition be called the mode of existence of all phenomena or Dharma Sthiti. The way all things exist is that they do not have any real existence. That mode of not having real existence (not Sat) of all phenomena is the Sunyata of all things. It is not the substratum like Braman from which all phenomena arise and subsides. It is not an existent thing (Sat) like Brahma/Atman, but rather is a description of the mode of existence of all phenomena, the description of the way all phenomena exists.

Brahman and Sunyata

Brahman is a thing or super thing (Mahavastu); Sunyata is the mode of existence of things (phenomena) and not any kind of thing or super thing. The reason why a lot of people are fooled is that sometimes similar words are used to describe both the Brahman and Sunyata. But no matter how similar the words used, Brahman is an ontological entity (Tatva Shastriya Vastu). Sunyata is not an ontological entity but only an epistemological fact (Gyana Shastriya Tathya). That there is really an existing unchanging substratum called Brahman/Atman to this evanescent world (Samsara) and that is the essence of this ephemeral world cannot be said to be the same thing as there is no eternal unchanging substratum to this evanescent world and that fact is the essence of that ephemeral world. These are not only two different things but to a degree even contradictory. So how can Brahman and Sunyata be just two different things of the same thing? How can the Bhagavat Gita which teaches the Brahman be saying the same thing as the Buddhist Sutras and Shastras which teach Sunyata or Nirvana, which is the extinction of any unchanging Self or Super Self? The Nirvana or the Dukha Nirodh Satya of The Four Noble Truths (Chatvari Arya Satyani) does not teach that the realisation of any kind of Brahman/Atman is the Dukha Nirodh Satya (The truth of extinction of sorrow), but rather such beliefs is the cause of Dukha (sorrow). Now to elaborate on the second part related to the mix up. To say the Hindu method and the Buddhist method does not lead to the same goal does not automatically imply that the two are enemies and have nothing in common at all. All religious systems all over the world have many things in common but that does not make (1) Hinduism and Buddhism one and the same, (2) the goals of the two the same (3)Buddhism a branch of Hinduism. Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism all developed within the Indo-Gangetic civilisation and thus have more in common with each other than with other non Indo - Aryan religious systems. However that does not make them exactly the same, nor does it mean they have the same goals. Jainism and Hinduism believe in an Atman and thus Atman Gyan as the means of knowledge and the method of freeing oneself from sorrow (Dukha). This Atma-Gyan (self knowledge) means knowledge of the eternal unchanging self that we truly are but still there are significant differences between Hinduism and Jainism! Some people confuse the Heya, Heya Hetu and Hana, Hanopaya found in Hindu philosophy as the same as the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism and thus conclude it is the same teaching because the meanings of the words seem to be similar. Firstly, the entire concept is copied from Buddhism as these words and concepts appear only at a much later date. Secondly, similar concepts exist in all other religious systems not only in Hinduism but even a little enquiry shows that it is exactly where Hinduism and Buddhism differ on each of the four counts!!

Meaning, not words, are important

That what is to be dropped, to let go, in all religious system is Dukha (sorrow) but the cause of that Dukha (Heya hetu) are not the same. The cause of sorrow of man in Christianity is, not surrendering to Christ as the one and the only son of God; in Islam it is not surrendering to Allah - the one and only, but rather to various idols; in Hinduism, it is clinging to Anatman (all that is not Atman); or in some forms of Hinduism it is just like Christianity or Islam in that the cause of Dukha is not surrendering to Krishna or somebody else; while in Buddhism it is clinging to Atman (the concept that there is a truly existing self). Likewise the Hana (the state of being free from Dukha) is something all religious traditions have as a part of its goal; and the definition of what is true freedom/sorrow are defined differently in each system. It is important to understand there are many types and many levels of freedom from Dukha and they are not necessarily the same - in terms of level or quality. And again, the way (Marga) or Hanopaya (the method of reaching the goal - freedom from sorrow) are again very different in all systems. In Christianity, it is surrendering to Christ; in Islam it is surrendering to Allah; in Hinduism it is realising the Atman (one's true self) etc. But all of these are drastically different from the way Buddhism advocates and that is to realise Anatman (that there is no really existing self/Atman anywhere to be found) which is the opposite of realisation of the Atman as posited by Hinduism! As the Buddha said - depend on the meaning, not on the words; and this is common sense! Those who advocate that the Heya, Heya hetu, Hana, Hanopaya are the same as the Buddha's four noble truths have fallen for mere words. Even the medical sciences and Ayur Veda have their own forms of truths but that doesn't mean Ayur Veda or for that matter the medical sciences are the same as Buddhism or are a branch of Buddhism. All forms of present day Hinduism believe firmly in a creator - God - Ishwar. Jainism normally does not have such a concept. The Tirthankaras like Mahavira are enlightened beings who have freed themselves from Samsara but they are by no means considered God, the creator of the Samsara/world. But Buddhism is even further away from Hinduism in that it neither accepts Atman (supreme self) nor an Ishwar (creator-God). Both concepts according to Buddhists are products of Mithya Dristi (false/ignorant/misleading views/concepts). So enlightenment in Buddhism is neither seeing that imagined eternal unchanging self as one's true nature or seeing God or God realisation.


Now, I will clarify the use of word Swarupa/Atman and the difference in its meaning and its ultimate goal. According to Jainism and Hinduism one's essence (Swarup) is the Atman. To Hinduism and Jainism, our true essence is the eternal, unchanging self/Atman/Brahman but when Buddhism uses the same word essence (Swarup), it means that our true essence (Swarup) is the fact of selflessness or 'no self' or absence of any eternal, unchanging self or Atman. In correct Buddhist terminology Anatma/Anatta in Pali is our Swarup.

So the word Swarup (self-essence - sometimes translated as True Self) has a contradictory meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism. The Swarup of Buddhism is Anatma or Sunyata which are synonymous. Sunyata is a deeper level of Anatma. Therefore Sunyata can never be the same as the Brahman- Atman of Hinduism as the Yoga Vasistha would like to have it.

This also brings into question the date of the Yoga Vasistha. It is supposed to be the teachings on Vedanta that Vasistha gave to Rama. Now, if Vasistha and Rama were before Buddha how can the Vigyanvad and the Sunyata of Buddhism be mentioned by Vasistha to Rama? The Buddha himself has mentioned the name of Vasistha as an ancient Rishi (seer) so definitely he is older than the Buddha. The Buddha mentions Rama in the Jatakas, which also would imply that Rama should be older than Sakyamuni.

But the story given by the Buddha about Rama seems to be older than any form of Ramayana existing. It seems to be the prototype on which the Hindus build their longer versions later on in history. Rama in the Jatakas is definitely older than even Valmiki Ramayan which was written much later than the Buddha's time. In it, Rama is a former life of the Buddha himself when he was still a practicing Bodhisattva (still a long way in terms of time, in becoming a Buddha) but the motifs and themes are very similar to what is known as the Ramayan today.

We have Vasistha teaching Rama that the Vigyan/Chitta of the Vigyanvadas and the Sunyata of the Sunyavadins (both of them Buddhists) mean exactly the same Brahman of the Veda/Vedantas. We also have the Valmiki Ramayan in which Rama is supposed to have told Jaivali (in Jaivali Prakarana Ayodhya Kanda) that the Tathagata is a thief etc. Either these words and concepts were added later to those writings or these were written after the Buddha in the name of Vasistha, Valmiki, Rama etc. I leave this for the scholars to decide. However the story of Rama in the Jataka is definitely older than the Valmiki Ramayan which is the oldest Hinduised Version of Ramayana.

Artilces from issue

Before I go into the similarities and closeness that exist between Buddhism and Hinduism, I would like to digress to a related point related to the Nepali context. In the Nepali context, the Hindus of Nepal have been trying to woo the Buddhists as belonging to the same fold by claiming and sometimes trying to force it down that Buddhism is the same religion and not different from Hinduism, actually a branch of Hinduism. None of those Hindus seem to realize that when they say that Buddhism and Hinduism are the same religion, to the Buddhist, it sounds too much like saying there are no differences and our goals are exactly the same. Sounds very tolerant at the outset but such a concept is extremely intolerant to the minority when said by a majority, especially when it is clear that the meaning of same here is that your views, philosophy, goals, practices are the same as ours, or a branch of ours or even in some cases, developed as a deviant off shoots of ours. Mark you its not the other way around that our Brahman is empty, does not have real existence, but rather your Sunyata has the same meaning as our Brahman which is really existing and any other interpretation of Sunyata is a mistake on the part of Buddhist who didnt understand Buddha. Anyway this is what Swami Vivekananda and many other Paramahansa implied or even said explicitly. That the Buddhists didnt understand the Buddha was implied as early as 300 AD by Vatsayana when he tried to read the Atman in the Bharhara Sutra of the Buddha, in his own writings.

Needless to say this kind of an attitude will not endear any genuine Buddhists. If the Hindus want to befriend Buddhists, they should learn to respect the Buddhist views and accept it as the Buddhist view as a first step, rather than trying to forcibly gobble up the major differences in the name of oneness. 

Even Sankaracharya did not accept many other Hindu views as the same as his view/goals and refuted them in his Sariraka Bhasya.(his commentary on the Brahman Sutra) and in his commentaries on the Bhagvat Gita and the Upanishads. Do the Hindus really expect Buddhists to calmly accept that there is no difference between the views of Hinduism and Buddhism? Ramanujacharya did not accept Sankhara's views and goals as his views and goals, Madhvachary did not accept both of the above. Bhaskaracharya even went so far as to call Sankaracharya a crypto-Buddhist (Prachanna Bauddha) and refused to accept him as a genuine Hindu because his views and goals seemed too close to the Buddhist views and goal and further away from what Bhaskara called Hinduism.

So if the Hindus of Nepal want to befriend Buddhist who are the second biggest group in the country, they should stop all such strong arm tactics and accept the Buddhist culture, goal as alternative view, culture, goal that grew out of the culture of the Indian Subcontinent as much as did Hinduism and Jainism. Judaism, Christianity and Islam evolved out of the Semitic Culture and have many things in common by virtue of that but still are by no means the same nor can we say Christianity or Islam are but branches of Judaism simply because Judaism is older or even that they are deviant versions of Judaism. Similarly, Buddhism , Hinduism and Jainism evolved out of the Indo Aryan and Dravidian Cultures of the Indo Gangetic planes of the Indian Subcontinent and thus do have many similarities by virtue of that; however, they are not the same or branches et al. As I have mentioned earlier we shall go into the similarities later on. We can say that Buddhism and Hinduism and Jainism are like three different fingers growing out of the same Palms (the palms being a metaphor for the Indo-Aryan-Dravidian Cultures and not Hinduism or even Vedicism/Brahmanism). This where most Hindu layman and Scholars err! They tend confuse the entire Indo-Aryan-Dravidian Culture to be automatically a synonym for Hinduism which is unwarranted culturally and historically. It must be understood that at the time of the Buddha and before that the Vedic system was only one of the various streams of religious systems competing with many other Sramanic streams already existing in the Indian subcontinent even before the Indo Aryans migrated into the Indo Gangetic planes bringing their Vedic Brahmanism along with them!! Some Fundamenalist Hindu scholars do not agree that the Indo Aryans migrated into the Indo Gangetic planes but were always there!! But the historical proofs and even the satellite readings of the beds of the Sindhu ( Indus) river seem to be against their interpretation whereas they have only Pauranic Myths to rely upon which are usually very contradictory! But even if we were to concede to this unfounded idea and say that Vedic Brahmanism was always there in the Indo Gangetic planes it would still be only one of the many streams of religious thoughts vying with each other at the time of the Buddha or earlier. And mind you, we are the Vedic system and not Hinduism of which there is no records at the time of the Buddha or the older contemporary Mahavir. We have already gone into details about how Hinduism as it is called now developed out of the interaction of Buddhism with the older Vedic system and so we shall not go into it again. However if Buddhism cannot be said to be either the same as or a branch of the Vedic system how can it be the same as or a branch of Hinduism which evolved in the Indian Subcontinent after the Buddha? Buddhism is a continuation of the Shramanic stream that already existed in the Indian Subcontinent. We shall go later into more details to see how there are internal evidences that most of what is considered as Ancient Scriptures by the Hindus (and assumed that they are older than the Buddha by most Hindus ,Laymen and Scholars) such as The Bhagawat Gita, the Brahman Sutra , the Valmiki Ramayana, the Yoga Vashitha , The Astavakra Gita and a whole host of such other Shastras are actually much later than the Buddha.

In 1977-78, during the Panchayat period, I had a strong argument with the CDO who was a Brahmin, who was forcing the people of Thak Khola, Mustang, to use names like Hari Prasad instead of Tsering Dorje etc., all in the name of unity. I told him there should be unity in diversity and unity does not mean forcing all other ethnic cultures to abandon their religio-cultural system and taking up Brahmanic culture. I told him we should give equal status to all religio-cultural system within Nepal and not try to make or force them to be one. I added that this will back fire once these people become aware and educated. But he did not agree with me. This is the type of mistake the Hindus of Nepal have been making with Buddhist ethnic groups and are still making it.

Even after Nepal has become a Republic, the Bramin-Newar dominated politico- administrative system seem to be blissfully unaware that more than 15 percent of Nepali citizens are Dorjes and Ang Tserings whose culture and language is Tibeto-Burman and religion is Buddhism. Because the Newars have been living in the capital and have been strongly influenced by the Bramanical cultures for centuries in spite of the fact that their language too is Tibeto-Burman;most non Tibeto Burmans think that Nepali Buddhism is limited to Newars. This is totally false. The Newar Vajrayana is very much part of our Nepalese culture as a whole and is very rich and certainly something all Nepalese should be proud of; however, it is important to understand that the Buddhist Newars are only a small percentage of the Buddhist population of Nepal and by no means represent all of Nepalese Buddhism.

First of all, the Newars form 5.48 percent of the Nepali population according to the statistics of 2058. Of these, only one or two percent of those Newars are Buddhists, which means the Newar Buddhists are less than one percent of the Nepali population whereas the Himalayan and sub Himalayan ethnic groups who follow the Tibetan form of Buddhism in one form or the other are more than 10 percent of the total population according to the statistics, but I personally believe more than 20 percent of the population belong to the ethnic groups who are Tibeto Burmans and follow Tibeto-Burman religio-socio-cultural forms. All of these use scriptures written in the Tibetan script even if their links with Tibet have been severed a long time ago. And to this group belong the Tamangs,Gurung, Magars and those who still speak a dialect of Tibetan and still have marriage links across the border with Tibetans (just as our Madhesi groups have linguistic and marital links with Indians across the borders) like the Sherpas, the Dolpopas, the Yolmopas, the Humlis, the Lepchas, the Lopas (more commonly known to the Kathmanduites as the Mustangis), the Nubripas of Athara Saya Khola called Nubri in local Tibetan language, the Lungpas, the Gungthangpas and others.

This whole religio-socio-culture is a sleeping snow leopard which is beginning to wake up in the new Republican Nepal. It is indeed wiser for the Brahmanic-Newar dominated politico-administrative system to wake up to this fact and give this large part of Nepal who form the majority of the Buddhists of Nepal due credence and respect which has been drastically lacking for centuries, before the snow leopard wakes up on its own and begins to demand its rightful place in Nepal, like the Madhesis did. And to be sure it is awakening!! 

Simply because the Newar Buddhists had the facility of living in the capital and thus had the facilities to organize themselves according to the politic-administrative systems throughout the Panchayat system and thus have Buddhist organizations accepted by the politico-administrative systems since the Panchayat time,it doesn't mean that 1) these organizations also represent the majority of the Buddhists or 2) even represent the Tibeto-Burman Buddhists. And just because the Chinese are having trouble in Tibet with Tibetans, it doesnt mean our own pure Nepalese Tibeto-Burman groups should also be suppressed or their religious sentiments not given credence at all. In a Republic we cannot afford to do that as they did during the Panchayat period. If the same attitude continues in the Republic then what is the difference between the Republic and the Panchayat system? 

My Guru of Dolpo, Khentin Rimpoche told me that until the East-West highway was made they had to go down to Nepalganj and cross over the border to India and go to Raxaul to cross over to Nepal again to go to Kathmandu. Whenever they crossed the border, they were always ill treated and even when they showed their citizenship, they were called Tibetans and that there citizenship were false etc. etc. If this same stupid attitudes of Brahmin-Newar administrators persists, you can be sure that the Madhesi forum will not be the only Forum!!


So far the language barriers have made these Tibeto -Burman groups unaware of what is going on. Because of the same language barrier the Bramin-Newar groups think most of these other Tibeto-Burman groups (usually given a blanket name BHOTE and that too mostly derogatively) are unlettered and uneducated.This is not accurate. Due to the pervasive influence of Buddhism, there are very few Tibeto-Burmans of the cis-Himalaya who cannot read the Tibetan script. I have personally seen even yak-herders who could read the Tibetan script. We cannot consider them unlettered simply because they cannot read Nepali or English.And there are many more so called Bhotes who are more well versed in their own Buddhist scriptures than are most Bramins and Newars in their own scriptures.Many ancients from upper Mustang like Lobo Khenchen and Dolpo like the Sarvagya (Kunkhen) Dolpopa and many others from other parts of the cis-Himalayas have been considered as great Panditas in Tibet itself. But of course the Bramin-Newar dominated Nepalese politico-administrative systems were blissfully unaware of them from ancient time to today - Republic or no Republic. However the Republic is still too young to be blamed so hopefully there will be more awareness and knowledge of a big chunk of the Nepali populace neglected so far, in the future. My purpose of writing this deviation is to make the general public aware that the form of Buddhism practiced by this Tibeto- Burman group has also suffered equally along with them in being accepted as a part of Nepali culture.

The form of Buddhism practiced by this group of over 10 percent of the Nepali populace is Vajrayana of the Himalaya which as I've said is popularly known as as Tibetan Buddhism all over the world now. The form of Buddhism traditionally practiced by the Newar Buddhist populace is also Vajrayana. The Newar Vajrayana is based on Sanskrit texts coming from ancient India, while the Himalayan Vajrayana is based on Tibetan translations of those same Sanskrit texts that the Newars use. However, there are cultural innuendoes and nuances added to both the versions that seem to give them different flavours. This cultural difference is not a non-Buddhist accretion; but rather a thing that the Buddha himself approved of.

In the Udumbarika- Sihanada Sutta, the Buddha has explicitly said that whoever took up Buddhism need not change their cultural elements as long as the cultural element does not clash or contradict the correct view of Buddhism. So we find many Hindu elements in the Newar Vajrayana and a few Bon cultural elements in the Tibetan and Himalayan Vajrayana. However, the Newar Vajrayana followers not only do not understand this but think that Tibetan Vajrayana is totally different form of Buddhism. We find the worship of the Nat spirits in Burma started by the Bikchus chanting the Paritta Suttas and we find Sri Lankan Buddhists worshipping Kataragama and other forms of Vishnu etc.however the Newar vajrayana followers not only do not know or understand this fact, but think that the Tibetan Vajrayana is some totally different form of Buddhism. In fact most Newars and Newar organizations believe that the Buddhism of Kathmandu valley is Vajrayana and the Buddhism of Tibet and the cis-Himalyas is Mahayan. This is completely baseless and shows how much these Newar organizations really understand the cis-Himalayan Buddhism.

Real Impurities

Passion, anger, delusion are the real dust and the wise expel these dust, dirt.

This is the reason why Newar organizations cannot represent the entire Nepali Buddhism - even more so if they are of Theravadin organizations who naturally fail to understand the cis-Himalayan Buddhist sentiments. No matter how pure or correct Theravada may be, it was imported into the valley at the time of Juddha Shumsher and made headways into Newar Buddhism in the last fifty or so years and this is not part of the cultural heritage of Nepal yet.

And as far as Himalayan Buddhism goes Theravadin organization are even further away than the Newar Vajrayana in terms of understanding what it really is, let alone represent it. To date, only a small percentage of Newar Buddhists who are themselves a very small percentage of the general Newars have become Theravadins. And that's a rather small percentage. So the sentiments and the organization of the Theravadins or with Theravadins bent do not and cannot represent the general Buddhist populace. Nor do their ideas, beliefs and sentiments represent the ideas , beliefs and sentiments of the vast majority of Vajrayana practitioners of Nepal who are of Tibeto- Burman stock.

Those in the politico-administrative power should become aware of this fact.Today there is The Nepal Buddhist Federation (Nepal Bauddha Mahasangha) which genuinely represents the Himalayan Vajrayana and which also automatically represents the greater percentage of the Nepalese Buddhists.

With this in background let us now turn to proper religious topics. Before we end the topic on Samatha and begin the topic on Vipashyana, I would like to finish the part of Siddhi Pratiharya of which we had said we would deal later. The first of all the six Avigyas is called Riddhi (Riddhi Vidha in Pali) and are of eight different kinds. It is said in the scriptures 1. Being one he becomes many; having become many he becomes one. This is the capacity to be many as many as thousands with the same form as the original person.

The story of the Arhat Chudra Pantha, a disciple of the Buddha is a well known example of this in all Buddhist traditions. He was said to be very slow witted and was unable to attain the first enlightenment called Srotapanna The Buddha gave him a piece of cloth to contemplate on. As he kept handling it, it became more and more dirty. He realized that the clean cloth was made dirty by his body and through that he contemplated on the body and that gave him insight (Vipashayana) in to the five aggregates { pancha skandha}. At that moment the Buddha uttered to him these words:

Passion ( Kama -Cchanda) is the real dust not dirt. Passion is indeed called dust.

The wise expelling the dust abide in the teaching of him who is free from dust.

Anger ( Dvesha) is the real dust not dirt. Wrath indeed is called dust.

The wise expelling this dust abide in the teaching of him who s freed from dust.

Delusion ( Moha) is the real dust, not dirt. Delusion is indeed called dust.

The wise expelling the dust abide in the teaching of him who is free from dust.

At the end of the stanza, Chudra Pantha Attained Arhathood, the highest level of enlightenment of the Sravakayana. To cut a long story short, it is said that the next day he filled the monastery with a thousand monks all like him. But a branch of this psychic power is the capacity to make various different types of forms performing different actions at the same time.

The great Sakyapa founder, Sachen Kenga Nyingpo was said to be giving the long Lamdre teaching simultaneously in Dolpo in Nepal and in Sakya in Tibet at the same time for over a month or so. A part of this Riddhi Siddhi is the ability to become many different things at the same time like a tiger, a man, a bird or a snake and even inanimate objects like a bridge a slab of stone or a pool of water at the same time making them perform many actions.

The second Karmapa is said to have turned into a huge elephant flying in the sky while Phagpa Rinpoche of the Sakya lineage cut his own limbs, the two hands and two legs and the trunk and each became the five Buddhas; both did this in the court of Kublai Khan and Marco Polo had recorded these incidents in his travelogue. Phagpa Rinpoche is the seventh in the line of the Sakya and is the Guru that took our famous Arniko to China to the court of Kublai Khan as part of his entourage.

Likewise we have many stories of similar Riddhi Siddhis of the Buddha himself. One story goes: The daughter of King Mandarva of Sagala State by the name of Khema was one of the queens of King Bimbisara of Magadh (present day Bihar). She was renowned for her beauty and being proud of her own beauty, she had no wish to go to meet the Buddha who was her husband the Kings preceptor (Guru /Kalyanamitra). She knew that the Buddha was in the habit of preaching that beauty is only skin deep.

But she heard the Venubana park (the Bamboo Grove park) had been greatly improved and was looking so picturesque that even the gods and goddesses were attracted by it. She therefore had a strong urge to visit it and went to the park where the Buddha was then in residing. King Bimbisara, who himself had attained the first degree of enlightenment called Srotappatti (stream entering) had told the attendants to make sure that she didnt come back without meeting the Buddha and paying her respects to him. She dared not disobey the King and approached the Buddha before she left for the park.

The Bhagawan with his supreme powers created a scene in which a lovely woman more beautiful than the queen was fanning him. As the queen watched this extremely beautiful woman fanning the Buddha ,the woman gradually become older and older and finally slumped down on the ground and begin to moan, her ravishing beauty gone. The queen was not the least startled by the extraordinary sight. The Buddha then preached a sermon to her and she became an Arhat a woman who had attained the full enlightenment of a Sravaka. She entered the holy order of nuns and became a Bhikchuni.

Many times the Buddha while remaining in one monastery projected himself to give teaching to those who were ready to realize the truth.

The second riddhi-siddhi is He could become visible or invisible at will. When a yogi wishes to render himself/herself or others visible at a distant place or make a hidden thing visible, he produces visibility, dispels darkness, reveals what is hidden and brings into sight what is not seen. The Buddha himself is said to have performed this riddhi on many occasions. Once when he was invited to Saketa (Ayodhya) which was situated at a distance of seven leagues from Sravasti, the Buddha decided that the citizens of Saketa should see the citizens of Sravasti and vice versa. He once made it visible to people all the worlds from Brahman Loka to Avici the lowest hell realm.

It is said that the Thera Dhammadina of Talangana Monastery in Sri Lanka opened the world when he was preaching the Apannaka Sutta at the Tissa Mahavira so that the audience saw downwards as far as Avici and upwards as far as the Brahman Loka (world).

And further more, he who wishes to perform the miracle of invisibility turns light into darkness, makes what is seen unseen, what is open hidden and what is visible invisible. Thus he can make himself or others invisible to others.

Vaka Bramah was the chief of the first realm of the higher gods (Devas i.e., he was the head of the first of the or the lowest level of the Brahman lokas where the Devas called Brahmas reside. He was of the view that his realm was the highest and that he himself and his realm was everlasting. This is a common delusion that most gods and goddesses have according to Buddhism. He did not know that there were many other Brahman Lokas above his. The Bhagawan (The Blessed One) visited the Brahman Loka and in the midst of an assembly of Brahmas pointed at the Vaka Brahma, There are realms of higher gods above yours and the whole of all the Brahma Lokas including yours is not permanent. Then the Bhagawan (Chomden-de in Tibetan) continued his discourse to the Baka-Brahman by saying, I know how you have come into being and what your powers are. But there are higher gods superior to you in status and power. Finding that all his views were wrong Baka wished to show his own powers and said, I will make myself invisible. He made several attempts to make himself invisible in front of the Buddha but without success. The Bhagawan then said, I will now show you that I can make myself invisible, and instantly the Buddha disappeared from view and continued to preach to him a sermon while remaining invisible.

In another story we find that the Buddha made Yasha invisible. Yasha was the first child of Sujata who had offered Kheer (milk and rice porridge) to the Mahasatva (The Great Being the most senior of all sentient beings including all the gods and goddesses even before becoming the Samyag Sambuddha ) on the very day he was to become the Samyag Sambuddha (T he Perfectly Enlightened One). Yasha had been brought up in great luxury, just like the Buddha himself had been. Three different mansions had been provided for him for three different seasons (cold, wet and dry). But waking up one night he found his palace attendants, female musicians asleep in unseemly conditions; and deeming the scene to be a cemetery, he went out from his house and the city to the Deer Park ( Mrigadava)in Isipatana that very night.

Yasha came into the presence of the Bhagawan and after hearing the sermon from him was established in the state of Srotapati; in which the person has his/her first glimpse of the Nirvandhatu. Yashas father went in search of his son and came to the Buddha. The Buddha made Yasha invisible with his supernatural power and assured him saying, You will find your son. Then he preached to Yashas father and he too became a Srotapanna. The the Bhagawan made Yasha visible again and as a result Yasha ordained as a monk at his own request.

Fine differences in interpretation

In a time of famine the Thera Cula Samuddha in Tambapanni (Sri lanka) took 700 monks for alms to Pataliputra (Patna) in India early in the day crossing the ocean as easily as if it were a small ditch. The Thera Tissa Gutta of Sri Lanka acted similarly when having bathed in the evening, he thought of saluting the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya and drew it near.

In the story of subduing Angulimala in the Majjhima Nikaya 86, the Buddha made a short distance into a long one, so that no matter how fast Angulimala ran after the Buddha, and although the Buddha was walking in slow composed gait, Angulimala could never reach him; and the Buddha always remained far from Angulimala. In the case of the rich miser already mentioned above called Matsarya Koshiya, Mahamaudgalayana made the small quantity of cake that the miserly millionaire cooked on the fifth floor all for only himself not willing to share even with his own family, into vast quantities enough to feed 500 monks. With this Siddhi one cannot only increase the quantity but also change quality such as changing a sweet thing into something not sweet. For instance the Thera Maha Anula had seen a number of monks who had collected alms obtain nothing but some dry food and had sat down by the side of the river to eat it. He then turned the river water into cream and the Sramaneras (attendant semi monks) took them by the cups and gave it to the assembled monks.

So these are the principle kinds of psychic powers mentioned in various Buddhist texts. We have now completed the explanation of Shila and Samadhi and need to go to the subject of Pragya which is the last remaining part of the Tri Sikchya (three Training) which is one way to understand Buddhism. But here, we are still talking mostly of the Sravakayana and have not yet started the explanation of Mahayana. However these parts are common to Sravkayana, Paramitayana and Vajrayana. All forms of Buddhism have the Tri Sikchaya (three training) in common, however there are fine differences in the way these three are interpreted. For example in the Sravakayana system like the Theravada etc., the Shila is unbreakable. Under no condition is one allowed to break the Shila, but in the Bodhisatvayana (which includes both the Paramitayana and Vajrayana) Shila not only can but should be broken if it helps other sentient beings. Even the Theravada text, the Harita Jataka says that a Bodhisatva can break all his Shila except the Shila of truth (Satya) if he feels that it helps other sentient beings. But in the Mahayana tradition even Truth Shila is not considered unbreakable if it helps other sentient beings. There is a popular story used in all Mahayana tradition that elucidates this difference in attitude and interpretation of Shila between the Sravakayana and Mahayana systems.

The story goes: a man and his beautiful wife got into a fight and the man flew into a rage and ran after her with a knife intending to kill her. She ran away and he followed her into a forest and lost sight of her. The woman rushed past a Sravaka Bhikkhu meditating on Asubha Bhawana (on the repulsiveness of a human body male or female according to as whether the meditator is a male or female) and a few minutes later the enraged husband reached the very spot and shouted at the monk demanding to know if he saw an extremely beautiful woman running past and which direction did she go. The Bhikkhu, true to his training replied very truthfully, "I do not know about a beautiful woman but a skeleton did rush past in that direction" and pointed out the direction the woman had gone just a few minutes ago!The man ran towards that direction, caught up with his wife and killed her. The story tries to teach Mahayana students, no matter if the story was true or not, in such a situation, a Mahayana monk would have lied and pointed towards the wrong direction so that the woman's life would have been saved. In that case, the man would have run on and on and exhausted himself and his rage would eventually have subsided .That is why the Avatansaka Sutra says one must know when to keep Shila and when to break it. And this verse is chanted everyday in most of the Zen monasteries in the Far East.

We find that Shila of some kind or Samadhi of other kind are found in all traditions; but they are not exactly the same as in Buddhism nor do they play the same kind of role as in Buddhism. But when we come to Vipashyana; then we find that this is unique to Buddhism. If one asks what new thing did the Buddha teach, then we have to say it is Vipashyana. The major principles of Buddhism like impermanence, sorrow, no- self, emptiness are based on the insights gained through Vipashyana. The major principles of Buddhism are not decrees made by some God or even the Buddha himself but rather principles based on the insights of Vipashyana. That is why the Buddha always said Ehi passiko which means come and see for yourself.

Over 2600 years the principles of Buddhism has been proven valid in each generation. There has never been a generation where those who practiced Vipashyana said that there was something not impermanent, that there was a truly self existing (Atman), or that this Atman (really existing, eternal self) or the things of Samsara gave true happiness. Also historically no other teacher, prophet or scripture/ text taught any form of Vipashyana. This is what the Buddha discovered which had been lost before him. When we say it had been lost before Sakya Muni rediscovered it, we do not mean it existed in other systems before and was lost and rediscovered. We mean it vanished along with Buddhism as taught by Kashyapa Buddha and remained lost not only in the Indian subcontinent but also everywhere else.

Amongst the three trainings (Tri-Sikchya Shila, Samadhi, Pragyya) Vipashyana is related to Pragya. Vipashyana is the method to awaken Pragya. As we said before Shila is required to cool the mind of emotional defilements; but Shila can cool it only so much. Then we need Samadhi through the practice of Samatha to cool the mind even further. As we said earlier on, without a certain degree of cooling the mind through the practice of Shila, it is impossible to attain Samadhi. Samadhi is not merely the ability to concentrate the mind. Any normal mind with normal amount of emotional defilements common to the human mind can achieve some degree of one pointed concentration called Ekagrata. One pointed concentration is still very far from Samadhi and it does not develop into Samadhi unless and until the mind has freed itself or stopped gross mental defilements to quite a great extent. Samadhi is the changing of the family of the mind called Gotra and not merely the ability to concentrate.

However, it must be very clearly stated that according to Buddhism, Samadhi is not enlightenment. This is something even Sankaracharya of the Hindus would agree to. However, what is meant by enlightenment in the Sankara system is also not what Buddhism calls enlightenment. This will become clearer as we begin to understand Vipashyana. But according to Buddhism Samadhi is a pre-requisite for enlightenment. For the Buddhist enlightenment, the development of Pragya is required. Without it there is no enlightenment within the Buddhist system as a whole - be it Sravaka system like the Theravada or the various Mahayana systems like the Zen or Tien Tai or the branches of Vajrayana. All forms of Buddhism believe in the necessity of developing Pragya in order to attain enlightenment. But for Pragya to develop, we need a strong foundation of Shila and Samadhi. Without Samadhi, Pragya tends to become mere intellectual, conceptual understanding that does not liberate. So just going into deep Samadhi of one kind or the other does not by itself liberate, even if the person can enter into deep Samadhi and remain in it for 14 days or whatever. Such Samadhis can and may give psychic powers called Siddhi Riddhi but does not by itself liberate and such capacities to go into such deep Samadhis are not themselves the same as the enlightened state. Now the method of awakening or developing Pragya which liberates is the meditation called Vipashayana. So now we need to understand those two words - Pragya and Vipashyana.

Strong foundation necessary for correct interpretation

Without a proper understanding of these foundations of Tantrayana, Tantrayana is prone to be easily misunderstood

When we come to Tantrayana, these steps become even more important. The Hevajra Tantra says very clearly that before a person is given the empowerment (Abhishekh/ Wang) of Hevajra, he should study and practice the Vaibhasika (the tenets of the Abhidharma etc., then the Sautrantic (the tenets of the essence of the sutras), the Yogachar (Chittamatra) and Madhyamika etc., properly. Now the practice of these tenets means Vipashyana.

Without a strong base like this, the empowerments of Hevajra/ Chakrasamvara/ Kalachakra etc., can be very misleading. Without a proper understanding of these foundations of Tantrayana, Tantrayana is prone to be easily misunderstood, as the commentaries on the Hevajra tantra, Chakrasamvara tantra etc., say very clearly.

It is only once this foundational Sravakayana and Paramitayana Vipashyana has been done after studying and contemplating that the true purport of Tantrayana or Dzogchen and Sutra Mahamudra can be truly understood. It is only when one has made this strong foundation can one truly understand that Dzogchen or Sutra Mahamudra or Tantrayana methods are also profound methods of Vipashyana.

Unlike the Sravakayana and Paramityayan Vipashyana, many aspects of Dzogchen or Sutra Mahamudra (often just called Mahamudra) or Tantrayana cannot and should not be disclosed; except to only those who have had the pre-requisite empowerments from an authentic lineage Master. There is a profound reason for this secrecy which is based on a deep level of psychological understanding of how the unconscious mind works. It is certainly not the case that it is kept secret because it is something shameful etc., as some Sravakayanis are wont to interpret. When a thing is kept secret its power at the subconscious level is made stronger and if it is let out, the power also fizzles out.

There are also other para-dimensional reasons it is not only a commitment for the practitioners but also towards the guardian deities (Dharmapalas) to keep such profound teachings secret. I shall now divert away from this and shall attempt to explain these things to the extent it is allowed in terms of modern language. If a person wants to experience and understand these things more profoundly, it cannot be done through articles like these or even through books but must be gained through empowerments (Abhishek/wang) transmission( Agama/loong) and instructions ( Upadesha / Tri) by a qualified authentic lineage Master. Here, I shall attempt to merely introduce the basic concepts.

First we'll deal with Sravakayana Vipashyana of Laos, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka; then we shall deal with the Paramitayana system of China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and then finally with the Vajrayana methodology of Nepal, Tibet, Mangolia, Central Asia. But before we describe the various Vipashyana methods we need to understand the path that the Buddha taught and how each of these Yanas are following the principle of the path that the Buddha taught. There are many ways the Path can be divided, but I have followed one particular methodology which divides the Path of the Buddha into four by - lanes.

Escapism -not the way out of the truth of suffering

Even though pain, stress, sorrow are hounding us every moment, we refuse to face this fact. The way we deal with this psychologically is by escaping. We run away from it constantly and that is how we humans 'solve' it.

Before going into these four by-lanes, let us take the teaching of the Buddha first. What did he teach? Again we can answer this question from many angles but in this context what comes to mind are the Four Noble Truths (Chatwari Arya Satyani).

In one way we can say that the Four Noble Truth is a succinct capsule of the entire teachings of the Buddha. What are the Four Noble Truths? They are: 1. The Truth of Suffering (Dukha Satya) 2. The Truth of the Cause of Suffering (Samudaya Satya) 3. The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering (Nirodha Satya) 4. The Truth of the Way/ Path (Marga Satya).

Now why are these called Noble Truths(Arya Satya) as opposed to just truths? They are called so because they are truly understood and experienced fully only by Aryas (Noble Ones) and not by ordinary people (Prithagjanas). Who are Aryas? Within Buddhist context, those who have experienced: sorrow (Dukha), impermanence (Anitya), non - self (Anatma) or emptiness (Sunyata) directly, non conceptually (Avikalpa); can be called Aryas. More technically, in the Sravaka tradition, such a person has entered the 'Stream' (Srotapanna) and is called a Stream Enterer (Srotapanna) and in the Mahayana tradition (and some Sravakayana traditions like the Sarvastivadins), the person is said to have entered the Path of Seeing (Darshana Marga) and is said to have become a first level Bodhisattva (Pratham bhumi bodhisattva).

That means, ordinary people like us (Prithagjanas) do not and cannot fully understand these four Noble Truths; and that means that they are not as simple as they seem at the outset; but are much more profound than what most people take them to be. However, even ordinary people like us can get some kind of conceptual understanding of these four Noble Truths ;which we shall go into now.

The first Noble Truth which is the Truth of Suffering is extremely profound not only psychologically but also epistemologically and soteriologically. Many who do not understand this point do not understand why the Buddha put forth this point as the first truth in the first teaching he gave at Sarnath to the group of five disciples (Pancha Vargiya). Many who totally misunderstood this point even go so far as to say that the Buddha was pessimistic. If not understood properly, it does seem like that too, to casual readers.

But in reality the reason is very profound. Even though pain, stress, sorrow are hounding us every moment, we refuse to face this fact. The way we deal with this psychologically is by escaping. We run away from it constantly and that is how we humans 'solve' it. Needless to say, this is not the solution. Escapism never really solved any problem let alone the problems of the human situation. Let us take a unit of our life to see this predicament. When you are sitting very comfortably, the truth of sorrow seems to be a very distant thing, not really having any relevance to you at the moment. But as you just sit comfortably, the very act of sitting comfortably slowly becomes uncomfortable. Finally, it starts getting quite uncomfortable. This is the truth of sorrow. The comfortable sitting itself without changing anything else becomes an uncomfortable sitting.

What then do we do? How do we deal with it? Another point is that this mode of solution is so internalized, so automatic that it is unconscious. We do not even consciously think about the solution that we use. It is solved unconsciously. And how is that? We shift our posture unconsciously so that the pressure is relieved. Now let us analyze this modus operandi.

What we resist, persists

Every person must first have insight into the fact that there is sorrow in this world and accept this fact for what it is before we can eliminate it.

First of all it is largely unconscious. Most of the time, we are not even aware that we have done this. Secondly, we just avoid the ‘pain’ by moving away from it – in short, escapism. We escape from one pain by moving into another pain without even realising it; without even being conscious that we are doing it.

Now, because we never face it, we never know it, we never understand it for what it is, therefore we will never have the correct knowledge to really eliminate it or make it cease. Secondly, the so called solution we have been using does not only not solve the problem as such but itself becomes the same problem that we tried to escape from in the first place. The new posture or position of sitting which we adopted to solve the first painful situation of sitting itself will begin to be painful like the first one in time. And again, of course, we unwittingly try to escape from this second pain by shifting our position again into yet another new posture which itself will become as painful as the first one, given time.

So, is this really a solution? But this is what all humans like us doing constantly at the intellectual, emotional, physical and psychological level – in fact at every level of our existence. This is so ingrained in us that most who take up any form of spirituality, including Buddhism, use high sounding names of techniques to just to escape from the pain problem rather than facing it.

But if we never ever face the problem how can we possibly know it for what it is? And if we don’t know what the problem really is, how is it possible to ever solve it? If you are always running away from it the tiger in the forest, you do not really solve the problem, do you? The one and only way to solve it ( you have no alternative to run away from this forest of Samsara) is to face it and understand it and know it for what it is and then deal with it appropriately; that is, either cage it or shoot it.

Since you are always in the forest and have no other alternative, just escaping away from the tiger does not really free you. It can at the most be only a temporary relief. But that is how we all have been dealing with the man eating tiger. The Buddha recognised this predicament clearly and this is the reason why he put the truth of sorrow as the first truth. He did not put forth this truth as the first Noble Truth because he was pessimistic, or had a pessimistic view of the world. He was a doctor, psychotherapist ( and he himself called himself a doctor), with profound insight into the human predicament.

So he emphasised that every person must first have insight into the fact that there is sorrow in this world and accept this fact for what it is before we can eliminate it. We must become fully aware of the whole mechanism, which is unconscious at the moment before we can even dream of becoming free from the whole mechanism. And given the human tendency to block this fact out, to avoid it ,to keep unconscious, it was paramount that this fact of sorrow be emphasised and brought to the fore. And that is what the Buddha did. And this is an integral part of freeing oneself from any problems. As Jung said, “what we resist, persists,” and as all psychotherapists of any form know that we cannot possibly become free from any psychological problem unless we bring it first to awareness.

Awareness itself is curative

It is a fact of life that all things change and nothing is permanent.

If a thing remains hidden at the unconscious level, it remains very powerful and can have tremendous power over us. And this is a fact all forms of psychotherapy agree to. The objective of all forms of psychotherapy, be they Gestalt psychotherapy, transactional psychotherapy, psycho synthesis, Freudian psychoanalysis, Jungian analytical psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, peak state therapy; the first step is to bring it into awareness what has remained unconscious till now; so that we can become free from it. Often, just bringing the event memory, complex neurosis into awareness is itself enough. As the founder of Gestalt psychotherapy said, “Awareness itself is curative.” But this was a fact the Buddha had already applied practically 2500 years ago.

Smriti-Samprajanya is the Sanskrit word used for what is loosely translated today into English as mindfulness. The Buddha prescribed mindfulness meditation to see through the suffering pervasive in every aspect of our existence which we, as we have seen, tend to avoid seeing, by keeping it unconscious. But now we know, as long as we keep it unconscious, we cannot be free from its clutches. Just becoming aware of this fact which we tend to keep unconscious hoping somehow it will either go away or perhaps it will not affect us, goes against any hope of curing it.

But Buddhism does not stop there. It has infinite skillful means to take this thorn out of our flesh. But that takes us now more to the path itself which is the fourth noble truth. Now, coming back to the truth of suffering, when Buddhism is talking about eliminating suffering, it is not so much the suffering like headaches or stomach aches but suffering at a deeper level which is more constant but hidden and so more powerful.

Within all forms of Buddhism: Sravakayana, like Theravada; Paramitayana, like Tien Tai or Zen; or San Lun schools of China/ Japan/ Korea; or the Vajrayana of Tibet, Mongolia, Central Asia and the entire northern cis-Himalayan regions from Kashmir through Nepal to the Burmese border – suffering is divided into three forms. The first form of suffering is called suffering of suffering (Dukha Dukhata). This is the kind of suffering most people think of when they think of suffering - as the pain of a raw wound or when you break your arm or legs. This is the grossest form of suffering and the easiest to deal with or cure. And this is not a major issue when Buddhism talks about suffering.

There are two more subtler forms of suffering which are more pervasive, constant and unconscious; and it is these two types that Buddhism talks about. The second type is called the suffering of change (Parinam Dukhata). This suffering of change is not only more subtle and therefore unconscious but also more pervasive in our lives. Most people do not even become aware of it unless it is pointed out to them and even then, they tend to forget it easily.

Now, what is suffering of change? It is a fact of life that all things change and nothing is permanent. Our body changes, our thoughts change; emotions, feelings, everything we hold on to changes. All material things, our possessions change. Things, people, ideas, concepts that we like changes. A youthful, beautiful body becomes old and weak. Black hair becomes grey; smooth soft skin wrinkles up; loved ones die; my much admired shiny car or TV breaks down. What do all this mean? It means, since they are not permanent, everything that gives me some sort of happiness will change and then that very thing itself will become a source of my suffering.

Because all phenomena (dharmas) are impermanent, they will eventually become the very source of my suffering even if at the outset they seem to be giving me some kind of happiness.

Cognitive restructuring

As long as we are not aware of this mechanism, we cannot become free from it.

Whatever is impermanent can never be the source of real happiness. Whatever happiness it gives can at best be only temporary and that very thing will be a source of my pain or suffering. Since all phenomena (dharmas) are impermanent, there is nothing that we know of that does not cause this kind of suffering.

Now, even though everybody knows at one level that all phenomena are impermanent, at yet another level we live our lives and suffer as if we do not believe that all phenomena are impermanent. We hold on to things we are attached to as if they are not impermanent. Although at an intellectual level most of us do understand that all that we cherish are not permanent; and so will not last; yet at an emotional level we cling to them as if somehow they will last. And this is what causes our suffering because all impermanent things will eventually be destroyed, will perish or break down.

And when that happens, the very thing that seemed to give us so much pleasure, happiness becomes the cause of our pain and suffering. I suffer when those I love die. I suffer when my Mercedes is hit by another car or when my favorite TV channel gets disturbed and so on and so forth. This is the second kind of suffering, the suffering of change which is missed out by most people.

It is only with full awareness and mindfulness that one can ever begin to become aware of this kind of suffering. Otherwise most so called normal humans don't even become aware of this suffering. However, as we have seen, not being aware of this suffering is really not being under its control, not being pressured by it, etc. In fact, according to all forms of psychotherapy, it is exactly because we are not aware of the pervasion of this that it becomes even more powerful.

A large portion of our lives and a big part of our creative energy is tied up in trying to escape from this suffering in an effort to hopefully eliminate it. We humans use up our creativity to create all kinds of escape mechanisms from this sorrow which does not leave us really but becomes only temporarily alleviated. And it comes back with a vengeance and again we have to use our creative energy to avoid it or escape from it again. As long as we are not aware of this mechanism, we cannot become free from it. Even our modus operandi to escape only adds to the angst in the long run.

So what does Buddhism do about it? In modern psycho therapeutic language, Buddhism tries to bring about what is technically called a cognitive restructuring towards all things to which we cling to, hoping they will give us happiness or will alleviate our suffering. How does cognitive restructuring help us? First of all, we believe that all those things out there will give us happiness. Even though intellectually all humans would easily accept that all things, people, experiences etc., are impermanent; emotionally, we do not act, react, behave as if they are impermanent. We emotionally behave as if all those objects, people, experiences are or will be the sources of permanent happiness.

Renunciation is not everything

What needs to be renounced is our Kama Sankalpa, not the objects of the world out there.

Impermanent phenomena (dharmas) can never give us permanent happiness. Even though we know it at an intellectual, rational, logical level; it is known only at the surface level of our being. At the inner gut level, we emotionally seem to know, to feel that those objects are not really impermanent.

So it is not enough to rationally know that all phenomena are impermanent. We have to see them as such at a gut level. We have to feel it fully that all phenomena are impermanent and thus the source of suffering. And this seeing is what Vipashyana is all about. It is this seeing that all phenomena (dharmas) are impermanent, sorrow producing and neither self nor mine that is called vipashyana. Just looking at phenomena, be they sensations (Vedana), feelings or whatever is not Vipashyana per se but only a step towards Vipashyana.

When we gain insight (Vipashyana) into this fact, automatically, a cognitive restructuring at the deepest level of our experience/being takes place. Until this emoto- cognitive shift takes place, one does not become free from sorrow. Now let us look at the whole process from another angle. As long as we have an emoto-cognitive perspective or view that dharmas are not really impermanent, and that they really do exist; we cling to them as the source of lasting happiness. But since none of the phenomena are really permanent or truly existing, when they change or are destroyed in anyway, those very so called permanent source of happiness becomes the source of pain or sorrow.

We cling to them or hold on to them exactly because our emoto-cognitive perception of them makes us believe that they will give us permanent happiness or satisfaction which implies that we see them as permanent and really existing; because only a thing that does not change can possibly give us unchanging satisfaction.

But the reality is otherwise. Whether we like it or not, all phenomena change and thus are impermanent and do not have real, true existence; so when they ultimately do change, the mind feels it like a tragedy has happened. Some people take this to mean Buddhism teaches us not to enjoy life in anyway at all or to stop going after the good things of life and thus they decry Buddhism as life denying.

We need to clarify this point clearly. First of all, it is not true that Buddhism tells you to renounce everything as a part of its path. Although some Buddhists do use renunciation as a major part of their path and thus renounce everything possible; and that is fine too; this is not the one and only path taken by all Buddhists; as we shall see later when we come to the Marga Satya (the truth of the path), the fourth of the noble truths.

However, the Buddha has made it very clear in the Anguttara Nikaya that it is not the objects out there that is the cause of your suffering but your attachment, clinging, craving towards it that is the cause of your suffering. And thus, it is very clear that he did not ever teach that renouncing the world out there or renouncing the good things of life is the Path. He is very clear that it is your (Kama Sankalpa) clinging, craving, grasping on to those objects that is the cause of your suffering.

So it is this Kama Sankalpa that must be renounced, let go of, be relinquished. Even if we let go of objects, our Kama Sankalpa for them is not renounced. Even if we go into the deepest forest or the caves in the Himalayas, our mind goes with us and our Kama Sankalpa goes with us. So, what needs to be renounced is our Kama Sankalpa, not the objects of the world out there. You can run away from all objects of the world out there but will continue to have the craving for them. And that is not true renunciation.

True enjoyment of life

What the Buddha taught is a true way to celebrate every moment of your life, not a negation of life.

You can be swimming in the middle of all the objects of desire and have no attachment or clinging to it and that is true renunciation. However, it must be said that for some people renouncing the objects themselves does help in the real renunciation of the Kama Sankalpa. So, this is a very individual thing.

Actually, if you renounce your Kama Sankalpa towards all objects of the world then you are free to enjoy them without any fear and hope or clinging to them in the hope that it will last; or fear that they might go away. Then we enjoy it while it is there and when it goes away, you enjoy its absence too. This is what the Buddha meant by: When seeing, just the seen; when hearing, just the heard... (drishte drista matram bhavishati, srute..) which is an oft repeated statement in the Zen Buddhist tradition - as when sitting, just the sitting; when walking, just the walking...

Then you are free to enjoy every moment freely without hope and fear (hope that it will last forever or fear that it might go away). And this is the true enjoyment of life (a true celebration of life, of this moment); also called drishta dharma. What the Buddha taught is a true way to celebrate every moment of your life, not a negation of life; a true celebration of what every moment presents, not a negation of what is presented. It is the ordinary mind under the influence of ignorance that negates the moment in front of us in search of our imagined happiness and thus misses out on the real world.

We are constantly hankering after a past memory or an imagined future and continually missing out on the only reality which we have which is the present moment. This constant hankering after memories of the past or craving for an imagined future is what is meant by Kama Sankalpa. This is also called Trisna which means thirsting or craving; and this is the eighth factor in the chain of 12 interdependent origination. (Dwadas nidan). It is that which ties us to samsara which is a synonym for suffering

So what the Buddha taught was not life denial but rather the true way to live life fully with all its richness. If there is outer renunciation of objects, as there is in the Sravaka system, it is always as a means to weaken the Kama Sankalpa and not as a thing to hold on to as something great in itself; not something to glorify. If that happens, then the renunciation of the outer worldly objects itself becomes an object of Kama Sankalpa. In that case, it defeats the purpose and just becomes another source of further clinging. Thus the act of renunciation gets glorified and used as a means of boosting one's ego.

This does not mean you stop renouncing. Now you renounce even the renunciation. One still continues to live one's life as a renunciant. In the process of explaining kama sankalpa we touched upon the chain of 12 interdependent origination. We will have to deal with that later as that is crucial to the understanding of Buddhism. Now let us move on to the third type of suffering.

Conditioned existence

True happiness is free from both pain and its relief; and that can happen only in the unconditioned (Asanskrita).

The third type of suffering is called the suffering of conditioned existence (Sanskara dukhata). Of the three forms of suffering, this is the most subtle and thus the average person does not even realise its existence. However, as we have said before, not realising its existence does not mean we are free from this form of suffering. This form of suffering is all pervasive and because it is so pervasive in Samsara that we have simply become insensitive towards it; but that does not make us free from it. It is there constantly.

Our existence is conditioned (sanskrit). The word conditioned here means created, born, produced based on other conditions. The Sanskrit word sanskrita or sanskaras mean this. Whatever has been learned, acquired, added on, are all Sanskaras (conditionings). And what is conditioned can never be completely fulfilling, can never give unalloyed happiness. In fact there can be no unalloyed pure happiness in any form of conditioned existence. This again does not mean Buddhism is anti existence or opts for non-existence (the annihilation of all existence). That would be nihilism (ucchedvad). The Buddha has stated that he teaches neither ucchedvad (nihilism) nor Saswatvada (eternalism - as in an eternal Atma/Self).

But we are deviating from the main point of the fact that all forms of conditioned existence are themselves subtle formsof suffering.While talking about conditioned existence which is unsatisfactory and full of subtle suffering; we are referring to not only the human realm of existence but all other forms of existence in Samsara. That includes even the heavenly realms (Swarga/Devaloka) and there too existence is unsatisfactory and thus suffering exists there too. This marks a major paradigm shift in Buddhism vis a vis other religious systems. Buddhism does not deny that there are other realms of existence, other dimensions like hell worlds and heavenly realms. In fact the Abhidharma which is one of the Tripitakas (the three baskets consisting of the teachings of the Buddha as collected by his disciples and handed down through the centuries) has a very detailed classifications of the various realms of existence (Lokas). Here, we are talking about both the Theravadin and Sarvastivadin and Mahayan Abhidharma.

Not only the hell (Narak), the hungry ghost (Pretas) and the human realms are unsatisfactory but also all the existence as Devas/angelic beings/deities in all the six Karmadhatu Deva Lokas (the six heavens of the desire realm) and the 16-17 Rupa dhatu devalokas (the 16- 17 heavens of Bramahs / Bramalokas) and the four Devalokas (heavens of the Arupdhatu (formless Braman Lokas) are all unsatisfactory and are not free from sorrow. Yes, the heavenly realms (Deval Lokas/ Swargas) are a lot more pleasant than the hell realms or hungry ghost or human realms but it is only in comparison to the three realms that they may appear to be pleasant or even enjoyable, but they are really not satisfactory not really free from suffering.

If your arms are pinched by a pincer, there is a lot of pain; if the grip on the pincer is stronger, the pain is stronger and as the grip gets lighter, the pain gets lighter. If the grip is removed temporarily there is relief from the pain that was hurting so much. However we cannot call that temporary relief true happiness, can we? Buddhism does not consider that as true happiness or satisfaction as it is only a temporary relief from pain that we mistakenly call happiness. True happiness is free from both pain and its relief; and that can happen only in the unconditioned (asanskrita). In all conditioned existence, there is pain and the relief from pain and the two are merely two sides of the same coin.

Constant striving

In all forms of conditioned existence we have to constantly make efforts to make ourselves happy or even to just get relief from the pain of existence.

Most other systems aim at one of the heavens of this or that God. While Buddhism also admits there can be temporary relief in these places, they too are unsatisfactory because existence there is a form of conditioned existence and according to Buddhism, even those heavens and the Gods or God there are temporary, albeit very long lasting in comparison to the human realm. So Buddhism's main goal is not to reach one of the heavens but to aspire to reach the Unconditioned/ Asanskrita. This is why the Buddha himself passed away but the unconditioned state which he realised is not temporary and is free from pain and happiness. Here, happiness means that which is the opposite of pain, suffering or relief from pain.

Existence in the Swargas (heavens) is not unconditioned. This is one major shift in the paradigm of the view of Buddhism vis-a-vis the views of other systems, including much of Hinduism. There are forms of Hinduism which speak about the unconditioned but there are subtle differences about which we shall discuss later.

In fall forms of conditioned existence we have to constantly make efforts to make ourselves happy or even to just get relief from the pain of existence. Just to live, we have to constantly strive for our food and clothing. Even if we were well off, we would have to constantly strive to just maintain it with very little time to relax and enjoy it all. If we over did our relaxation and enjoyment, we would easily lose all that hard earned booty. This constant striving, whether you are rich or poor is the suffering of conditioned existence.

If you are poor, you have to constantly strive to earn; and if you are rich, you have to constantly strive to maintain what you have. Thus, in such conditioned existence, we constantly get what we don't want and do not get what we want. We lose loved ones and we come in contact with enemies or those who we do not want to be with. Things we like are destroyed and we get what we do not like. For example, a young aspiring student ends up studying in a college s/he does not like and cannot get into the one that was coveted.

Birth itself is traumatic, as is well known in many forms of psychotherapy. The trauma of being born continues to create suffering to the individual throughout his life by preventing him from living in the here and now, fully in the present, in contact with the reality. Many other forms of modern psychotherapy claim that even conception itself is equally traumatic. Being in the womb itself is suffering and it causes a lot of trauma that continues through life. After birth, a series of suffering begins just by the virtue of being an infant and unable to take care of itself. The child cannot communicate its pains, discomfort and wants and that becomes frustrating. A child may not get food when hungry and forced to eat when not hungry according to the convenience of the adults looking after it. All this is suffering that impacts an individual and hinders him/her from enjoying life fully.

Suffering of growing up

Most psychologists believe that more than 80 percent of the families in which children grow up are dysfunctional.

The child barely begins to be able to communicate and make sense of the world when it is packed off to pre-schools. Just meeting all the strangers and adjusting to them including the new adult called the teacher is a big thing for the child. And she is trying to accept the betrayal of trust by her parents who leave her in midst of strangers and are not there to help her in the transition. She really does not want to go to any pre-school or whatsoever but the parents continue to push or coerce her. Everyday is a big a fight or a weeping session till she finally gets used to suppressing her real desire.

As she grows up she wants to play, watch TV or play video games but her parents tell her to study or do homework. If she doesn't finish her homework and watches her favorite cartoon, the teacher will punish her and so the fear continues. As she grow to be an adolescent, there are many things she wants to do but either her parents or the society she grows up in prevents her from doing all that in the name of civilisation which she begins to detest with all her heart. She falls for a guy but the boy has eyes for somebody else. There is tremendous stress and pressure she faces due to her hormonal changes that nobody seems to understand. Her own parents particularly appear to be the worst villains. No matter how loving mom and dad are, they just become more irritating to her. She doesn't even want to be seen with them or spend time with them and wants to hang out with her friends, but her parents will have none of that and that makes her more frustrated.

This trend of wanting to do something versus doing something that the parents want continues as the child grows up and goes through the adolescent stage which again is full of stress, of wanting to do one thing and having to do something else, and living with fear of having hidden something from parents and of being found out, of peer pressure, self doubts, identity crisis and so on etc etc. The child thus learns to live under the pressure of the parents and or of the society, much against his/her wishes. Once in college, there is more stress of adjusting to strangers once again. There is stiff competition to get into the college she wants to. If she doesn't make it, then there is frustration and the nagging sense of being a failure. Even if she makes it, it comes only after having gone through a lot of stress.

If a child has had a lot of traumatic experiences in the growing up process (and that is not rare as most may think - in fact, most psychologists believe that more than 85 percent of the families in which children grow up are dysfunctional); then the child who is now a new college girl is going to have a very hard time adjusting to all the strangers and the new environment. And then there is the problem of going through the exams, waiting for the results and more! Thus continues the suffering of conditioned existence.

Planning everything but death

Death is not an easy thing to face for most people who have spent their entire lives running away from it.

Then, competing to get a good job itself is another stressful addition to the modern life. Not that there was no competition in ancient times but the modern day competition has gone way ahead of imagination. Even if a young girl gets a good job, she has to learn to play by the rules for which no school/college education prepared her for. The cut throat competition forces her ego to take a second place in the games the companies play; so painstakingly, she learns to fit in and rise up the ladder often at the expense of her close friends and family; and it also gradually begins to take a toll on her health and happiness.

Ulcers and blood pressure becomes a constant companion for most such young people striving to make their mark in the world. They get so caught up in the rat race and forge ahead as if wearing blinders like horses do, to protect themselves from all the pain; and before they realise it, they get old, tired or retire, without ever questioning what all that was for. Some, who question the whole drama, question it and finding no answers, drop out of it.

Somewhere in the process, she gets married as it is the normal, accepted thing to do according to the society she lives in. She gives in, even though she is not mentally, emotionally ready for it and is often left without a choice but to again play by the rules of the society - either out of her choice or by giving in to the choice made by her parents. Marriage brings with it its own pressures, of adjusting to a partner and his family and increased social expectations. This is followed by the enormous stress of bearing a child whether it be a man or a woman. Most women think giving birth is only their problem and the men go scot free but that is only an one sided view. Most prospective fathers go through a lot of stress as their wives go through the pain of child birth. After the birth of a new baby, the new mom and dad face a new set of tensions.

Tending to the bawling child in the wee hours of morning, catering to its frequently changing demands, ailments , months upon months of sleep deprivation, fears of the child hurting itself etc., continues as the small cute looking baby gradually turns into demanding little brat. As the child continues to grow up, with all the pressures it itself is experiencing inside, the parents too are facing their own suffering of growing older, dealing with a myriad of physical, mental and emotional problems. In spite of all the cosmetic aids, the cogs of time roll on and old age gradually takes it toll.

The body ages but the mind doesn't age in most people and that itself causes a lot of suffering. The body can no longer cope with all those activities which it once could do without a thought. Body aches, back aches and many other aches begin creeping up preventing one from doing all that one wants to do. In some societies, the old are valued for their wisdom and knowledge; but in most modern societies, the old are treated as a burden and are put away in old homes where they start to vegetate, being treated as such constantly.

Finally, death is not an easy thing to face for most people who have spent their entire lives running away from it. But as death approaches inexorably, it becomes more difficult to face the prospect. If a person's socio-cultural norms have not prepared him/her to face it, it can be a painful process, as is seen commonly in eyes of terminally ill patients - young or old. Death is an inevitable process every human has to face but so few are prepared for it by their social cultural background. Most try to pretend it isn't time yet or tend to have the rather lame intellectual rationalization - "Forget about death, I will face it when it comes, till then let me live my life." How many things, events, and situations do humans deal with in the same manner? Have we heard of anybody say - "forget about my future or the marriage of my son? We will deal with it when it comes, till then, let's enjoy life?"

We humans plan everything but death. Death is something you have to deal with for sure and such rationalisation is escapism that is rooted in fear, the fear of the unknown, of not having any idea what to do about it. Here, it can be said that that Vajrayana Buddhism is indeed very rich in its instructions in helping us humans face this most crucial phase of our lives in a dignified, peaceful and meaningful way.

Unappeasable desires

Always wanting more, better, bigger, we continue to create never ending suffering for ourselves.

Continuing on the suffering of conditioned existence, the Abhidharma Kosha Tika (mDzod'drel in Tibetan) says, "If a single hair is placed upon the palm of hand, there is no pain or discomfort; but if the same hair is inserted in the eyes, there is extreme discomfort and pain. Since fools are like the palm of the hand, they do not perceive the hair of worldly suffering, however the Noble Ones (Aryas) -ie- those who have seen reality, like the eye always reject it." For the ordinary person, the suffering of conditioned existence is like the piece of hair on the palm of hand.

When we talk of this suffering what we have elaborated above can be divided into three categories: 1. The suffering of ' that activities are never ending '2) The suffering of not being satisfied by desires and 3) The suffering of not being wearied by birth and death. The suffering that activities are never ending is that from the very moment of birth till the moment of death, we have to make constant effort to gain happiness to be free from suffering. But it never ends to the point of death. We create all sorts of things- physical, emotional, mental to help us become free from suffering and we make these things with great effort and all these things perish effortlessly.

It takes months, years to build a home ; but one earthquake or hurricane will destroy it within minutes and we have to rebuild all that again as we have no other choice. We continue to work like this till old age and on to death and yet we still do not have enough time to finish our work. Even at the point of death, with many projects still unfinished, we continue to be attached to them. Farmers smear the blood of their feet on stones while working in their fields and the blood of their hands on the wooden ploughs. Traders are forced to make foreign countries their homes. In the Bodhicharyavatara it says: Some wretched desirers are utterly fatigued by working the whole day and having returned home their wearied bodies sleep like corpses. Some have troubles of traveling abroad and the hardships of living far away from their wives and children for many years.

Then we have the suffering of not being satisfied by desire. The poor strive for a simple house but once they acquire that, it does not satisfy them because they now desire a bigger house. Even if they manage to get that, they will not be satisfied and will now want a palatial house and so it goes on. Thus, not only are we not content with what we have but our desire increases more and more. Whether it be food, clothing, house - we just want more, bigger, better. This creates continual suffering and we also burn with envy when we see others who have more and better things than we do. The poor believe the rich are lucky and happy; but only the rich know how happiness deludes them constantly.

And finally, the suffering of never being wearied of birth and death. In spite of the fact that we have been born again and again, in all various realms of existence with all kinds of suffering, we do not seem to be weary of it at all. We continue to act as if there were no such suffering at all. It is just like the famous story of a man hanging on to a thin strand of straw in a well with a lion above waiting to get at him and a rat gnawing at the straw and a cobra at the bottom of the well and the man sees some honey dripping from a honey comb nearby and pulls his tongue out to taste the honey and feels it as blissful nectar.

In brief, the worldly existence is like an ill person who never recovers, it's like a prison from which one is never released and like a traveler who never arrives. Whatever one may do, wherever one may dwell, whomever one may associate with, whatever one may enjoy, these are all never anything but suffering, by their own nature, never anything but the source of suffering, and never beyond the wheel of suffering.

These are the three main types of suffering: 1. the suffering of suffering (Dukha dukhata) 2. The suffering of change (Parinam dukhata) and 3. Suffering of conditioned existence (Sanskrit dharma dukhata) - the most subtle of all. It is important to understand that the objective of Buddhism is not merely to understand intellectually that we have these three types of suffering. Knowing them and understanding it at intellectual level does not have much value soteriologically. And in any case there is nobody who does not already know that there is suffering in life. But such knowledge or knowing does not transform a person as he continues to live life existentially as if it were not so. And this is where Buddhism is different from other spiritual and religious paradigms. The purpose of all these enumeration of different types of suffering is to get us to realise it, to make it sink into our subconscious mind, to let it seep into our very depths of being. And the only way to do that is to meditate on the fact that all our five aggregates (Pancha skandha), which automatically mean that the whole realm of existence, is suffering until one directly perceives this fact as such and not merely understands it. This type of meditation which is geared towards seeing that all life, all phenomena, all existence is suffering is called Vipashyana/Vipassana. As one of the Dukhata is Parinam dukhata, it is paramount to see directly that all conditioned phenomena (Sanskara dharma) are impermanent (Anitya/ Anicca) and because they are impermanent they are directly or indirectly the source of suffering.

Here too, it is not just a question of understanding and accepting it intellectually but more a question of seeing/perceiving all conditioned phenomena as impermanent/changing and therefore is suffering. So, Vipashyana also involves methods that help you see directly the fact that all the five aggregates are impermanent. No non-Buddhist system of meditation has developed methods of meditation to see that all conditioned phenomena are impermanent and are suffering. Although almost all other spiritual systems do talk about and rationalize about the world of suffering, they do not have meditations to see this fact directly; and do not emphasize that this has to be experienced directly. And this was true at the time of the Buddha himself, and that is why he called it the one and the only way to Nirvana (Ekayano Maggo). Vipashyana is not about seeing the True Self (Atman) or seeing God (God realization); but about seeing directly, realizing, actualizing that all of conditioned phenomena is impermanent and is suffering. There is also the seeing of Non-Self (Anatma) and emptiness (Sunyata). After we finish this topic on Vipashyana, we will go back to the goal of all Hindu systems and then compare the two together to see how the two are totally different and how the common Hindu notion that the goal of Hindu practices and Buddhist practices are the same ultimately in experience are mistaken notions spread by Swamis and Paramahansas who have no knowledge of Buddhism. Or in some cases distorted wrong knowledge of Buddhism.

Only experiencing transforms, not mere intellectual understanding

In brief, the worldly existence is like an ill person who never recovers, it's like a prison from which one is never released and like a traveler who never arrives. Whatever one may do, wherever one may dwell, whomever one may associate with, whatever one may enjoy, these are all never anything but suffering, by their own nature, never anything but the source of suffering, and never beyond the wheel of suffering.

These are the three main types of suffering: 1. the suffering of suffering (Dukha dukhata) 2. The suffering of change (Parinam dukhata) and 3. Suffering of conditioned existence (Sanskrit dharma dukhata) - the most subtle of all. It is important to understand that the objective of Buddhism is not merely to understand intellectually that we have these three types of suffering. Knowing them and understanding it at intellectual level does not have much value soteriologically. And in any case there is nobody who does not already know that there is suffering in life. But such knowledge or knowing does not transform a person as he continues to live life existentially as if it were not so. And this is where Buddhism is different from other spiritual and religious paradigms. The purpose of all these enumeration of different types of suffering is to get us to realise it, to make it sink into our subconscious mind, to let it seep into our very depths of being. And the only way to do that is to meditate on the fact that all our five aggregates (Pancha skandha), which automatically mean that the whole realm of existence, is suffering until one directly perceives this fact as such and not merely understands it. This type of meditation which is geared towards seeing that all life, all phenomena, all existence is suffering is called Vipashyana/Vipassana. As one of the Dukhata is Parinam dukhata, it is paramount to see directly that all conditioned phenomena (Sanskara dharma) are impermanent (Anitya/ Anicca) and because they are impermanent they are directly or indirectly the source of suffering.

Here too, it is not just a question of understanding and accepting it intellectually but more a question of seeing/perceiving all conditioned phenomena as impermanent/changing and therefore is suffering. So, Vipashyana also involves methods that help you see directly the fact that all the five aggregates are impermanent. No non-Buddhist system of meditation has developed methods of meditation to see that all conditioned phenomena are impermanent and are suffering. Although almost all other spiritual systems do talk about and rationalize about the world of suffering, they do not have meditations to see this fact directly; and do not emphasize that this has to be experienced directly. And this was true at the time of the Buddha himself, and that is why he called it the one and the only way to Nirvana (Ekayano Maggo). Vipashyana is not about seeing the True Self (Atman) or seeing God (God realization); but about seeing directly, realizing, actualizing that all of conditioned phenomena is impermanent and is suffering. There is also the seeing of Non-Self (Anatma) and emptiness (Sunyata). After we finish this topic on Vipashyana, we will go back to the goal of all Hindu systems and then compare the two together to see how the two are totally different and how the common Hindu notion that the goal of Hindu practices and Buddhist practices are the same ultimately in experience are mistaken notions spread by Swamis and Paramahansas who have no knowledge of Buddhism. Or in some cases distorted wrong knowledge of Buddhism.

Goal of Arhathood

Arhat is the one who has destroyed his enemy - and enemy here means Klesha or our emotional defilements which is the cause of our suffering

The seeing of suffering directly through meditation is most crucial for the mind to move in the right direction of the Buddhist view of total non-grasping. But that is not all, it is crucial to both the goal of Sravakayana system (like Theravada) and Mahayana. The seeing directly that all things are suffering is the first step for the mind to turn away from grasping/clinging (Trisna/Tanha) to this world of suffering. There can be no desire to transcend or go beyond or be free from this world of suffering until and unless one feels in his very gut that this world is suffering; then that becomes the genuine basis of renunciation which is the way of Sravakayana as we shall see later.

In another language, the desire to achieve the goal of Arhathood can be motivated only if all of the world (which is included in the five aggregates/Pancha skandha), from the hell realms to the heavenly realms, is seen directly as suffering or the source of suffering. Without that basic change in mental attitude there can be no desire to renounce the world and become an Arhat who is free from this suffering. Arhat is the one who has destroyed his enemy and enemy here means Klesha or our emotional defilements which is the cause of our suffering.

People do not desire to become an Arhat because inspire of all the suffering we have talked about in the last couple of articles, people do not perceive it clearly; they do not feel the suffering or they are oblivious of it even though they feel its pinch again and again. So there is no genuine motivation to be an Arhat. An Arhat is someone who has seen the three worlds (Tridhatu) burning like a blaze at the end of the world and has been burnt by it and feels it strongly in his mental stream and has decided to free himself from it, using the correct method to free himself from it.

Likewise, seeing this suffering directly is also equally important for Mahayana, which is also called the Bodhisattva way; and Mahayana includes both the Paramitayana based on the Buddha’s teachings as found in the Sutras which is therefore also called Sutrayana, and Vajrayana, based on the teaching the Buddha gave as founds in the Tantras. The Sravakayana Sutras are the collections of the teachings that the Buddha gave here on earth, and sometimes in the heavenly realms (Deva Lokas) to men and Devas. Various 18-24 Nikayas of the ancient times each had their own collections handed down by heart from generation to generation as was the custom in ancient India.

Even the Vedic system was handed down in a similar manner and so were the Jain system. Of them only the Theravada Tripitakas and the Sarvastivada Tripitaka survive today in written form. The Theravada Tripitaka is in Pali language which was a language created in the Ujjain/Avanti region of India to encapsulate the profound philosophical concepts of Buddhism. Ujjain lies to the western part of Northern India. Pali is a language created (and never spoken) based on the Saurseni language group of the Ujjain region of India. In that, it is similar to Sanskrit which is also a created language and not a dialect of any region of India. And the Sarvastivada Tripitakas was originally written in Sanskrit but today only some original Sanskrit texts are still found while the entire Tripitaka has been translated into Chinese and it still exists. Some portions of the Sarvastivada text have been translated into Tibetan too.

The Paramitayana Sutras are the texts of the Mahayana and the Tantrayana that were taught to Bodhisattvas like Manjushree, Vajrapani etc., either directly or by blessing one of the Bodhisattvas through various Samadhis etc.

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