Human Life
by the late Ven. Dr. K Sri Dhammananda
The Buddhist Channel, Sept 3, 2007


In memory: Ven. Dr K Sri Dhammananda Maha Nayaka Thera (1919-2006).
Picture by Jeff Ooi

I never actually thought that I would have the chance to see and talk to you (again). Half of my body is dead, but my heart, my mind still has energy (to go on).

What is this diseased body? Is it life? (Our body) is not life, but just a house (containing this physical body). Life is "energy". The coming together of mental, kammic and cosmic forces - that is life.

When the body decays, life goes away. Actually we must be happy when the time comes to depart without suffering. To crave so much for the body, we spend our whole life decorating it, looking after it. One day it will decay and when the body elements dissipate, then the mental energy will go on to build another house. 

Life begins with mental energy. This is birth. Every single child cries (when they are born), none comes to this world smiling. Life is suffering. (In a lifetime) we use whole amount of energy just to maintain this physical body, but yet one day, we (still) have to depart. (When we have departed) what is left behind is solidity and fluidity - two elements only. There is no longer heat and motion.

Christians and Muslims are particular about the body (of the departed) as they believe in resurrection. Buddhists do not believe that there is anything in this physical body. People spend thousands of dollars on funerals, but the departed never get anything. The only way to support the departed is to know how to make use of this life. That is why religion is needed to help us to cultivate compassion, sympathy and kindness and supporting others.

Rhys Davids (the late President of the Pali Text Society) sent me a letter saying that there are two reasons to be happy as an old man. Firstly, he said that he will (soon) be free from pain and suffering. Secondly, ever since becoming a Buddhist, he said that he has tried his best to maintain and uphold the five precepts. (As such, he knows that should) he be reborn in another life, it won't be an unfortunate one. He knows he can depart with the confidence that his good deeds would ensure a good rebirth.

In the end the dying man takes no solace in dancing and singing. Only through meritorious deeds will one get confidence and this will support the kammic energy in the (subsequent) rebirth. We must know how to handle life, by doing service to others to help release their suffering. Many die with fear and confusion in mind. This cannot take rebirth into the upper realm. Meditation is important to maintaining purity.

When craving and attachment is completely removed, the mind is then completely pure. Remember, this body is not life. It is just a house built by energy and the four cosmic elements.

It is unfortunate that in the past 2500 years, Buddhists in Asia have introduced a lot of rites and rituals (which were) never introduced by the Buddha. The Buddha just teaches us to keep away from evil by reducing anger, jealousy and enmity. We must continue to do meritorious deeds, to develop the mind through understanding and to purify the mind (through meditation).

If you are cruel, hot tempered or stingy, try your best to take this out (of yourself). If you pray to God to take this out (for you) do you think God can do that? Buddha will also won't (be able to take your negative elements away), but he can tell you how to do that. War is declared by the human mind. Peace also comes from our minds. They are not created from heaven or by God.

In Buddhism, (we practice) first by understanding, not by blindly believing. When you have developed right understanding, then (you will be able to) carry out a religious way of life. When you (have) doubt, you must think and investigate, then (make a decision to) accept or reject. (This is Buddhism, unlike) other religions which say that when there is doubt, God will punish you.

All over the world different (Buddhist) schools have sprung up and followers have their own traditions which they have maintained for a long time. (While) Buddha has rejected (many) old traditions, it was (unfortunate that many rites and rituals have been) introduced to primitive, narrow minded people. (As people) in Asian countries (get more enamoured by rites and tradition, it is a shame they) don't study the dharma (much).

Next - do good. Reduce your anger and (try to) do something to train the mind through right understanding. Change the mind through your own experience of understanding what is right and wrong.

I have been in Malaysia for 53 years. (Once) I don't even have a room to sleep in. (But I have made the country my home, teaching Buddhism). Most of the Buddhists here are the Chinese, and through Buddhist societies we made them understand what Buddhism is.

Although I am half dead, my mental and life energy is still active. (It would be beneficial if) you know how to do this.  Although the end of my life is now near, I have no fear. Arahants can disconnect mind from body, experience Nibbanic bliss. At that moment, you cannot tell if they are dead or alive as their bodies are still warm and their complexions remain ruddy. They can maintain so for one week at the most.

Remember there are four kinds of happiness:

1.     Happiness of Possession - In owning your own property, house, land, business, bank account.

2.   Happiness of Enjoyment - Using what you have earned (which) you can enjoy good food, nice house, (comfortable clothing)  without abusing, bluffing and cheating others.

3.    Happiness of Debtlessness - Try best not to borrow from others. By spending within your own means, you gain self respect.

4.    Happiness of Blamelessness - Try to lead life without bringing harm to anyone.

(You must constantly cultivate) these four kinds of happiness. (Never) be lazy, do some (productive) work, do not neglect what you have earned. Maintain and protect what you have earned.

Later on, you can then decide upon adopting a Buddhist way of life, right up to becoming an Arahant. (But first, you have to) know how to adjust your way of life and how to associate with others. Who are (these others)?

Associate with good people, not harmful, wicked people. Support your father and mother and look after your wife and children. Don't neglect relatives, help them (when needful). Develop your mind to the extent that you are not shaken by the eight winds of change - praise and blame, fame and shame, gain and loss, pleasure and pain and treat all the same. (If you do this well) at this stage nothing will affect you.

All meetings end in partings,
That which rises must fall,
That which is collected will be dispersed,
Birth ends with death

Edited by Ang Choo Hong, President of the Buddhist Missionary Society of Malaysia and Co-edited by Lim Kooi Fong, Managing Editor of the Buddhist Channel. This article is published in memory of the first anniversary of the demise of the late Ven. Dr K Sri Dhammananda. This article will go on print in the Voice of Buddhism, October 2007 edition.


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