Sunday, September 12, 2004

Finding the Lost Ark

I've been researching on the paticcasamuppada (or pratityasamutpada) for years and it was only when I found this book by Buddadasa Bhikkhu that I "finally got it." It's like things have fallen into their proper places, and I no longer wonder about the questions I have had for decades. Questions like: What exactly did the Buddha meditate on right before he attained enlightenment? What was his specific technique? Why is it that Buddhism, like other major religions, extols morality and goodness when it also teaches egolessness (anatta) and void (sunyata) to practitioners in many sutras like the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra? (I feel I understand the Diamond Sutra now more than ever because of my encounter with the Bhikkhu's two books) Why is it that I have been more interested in the paticcasamuppada than any other religious/spiritual doctrines on morality, law of karma, accumulating merits etc.? and so many others.

There were so many other questions at the back of my mind every time I came across a particular information or advice when I was still wallowing in Buddhist schools, Christianity, Hindu, Tantra, occult studies, New Age, magick, quantum physics, and whatever-you-have-out-there-that-seem-to-promise-enlightenment. Suffice it to say that I've been through a lot in search for the so-called "enlightenment" all my life. Evidently, because my foundation is Buddhism, I come back to it time and again.

I am glad that I found this book by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. Ironically, on reflection, I discover that all or most of the materials I have come across are from the Mahayana schools, whereas this first (?) book from the Theravada school (I've refrained from using Hinayana because of questions on prejudicial label raised by certain sectors, and out of respect) provides the answers to all my questions, or keeps me from wondering anymore. It's like I've found my Lost Ark. Apparently, it is not as groundbreaking to other people as it is to me because everyone has his own search for enlightenment or meaning in life, his own questions, his affinity.

I had wanted so much to share the knowledge to others by translating the book into English but, initially, I hesitated because the subject is so profound (I and many others consider it the core of Buddhism), and the book is not short for translation. On second thought, I decided to proceed because I really want people like me to know its messages. Furthermore, it will force me to "master" the subject by working on it. I also came across a page where a known Chinese monk (Mahayana) questions the Bhikkhu's book - is it only because the latter belongs to a Theravada school or the "smaller vehicle?"

I discover this is the specific way to do it as I put the puzzles together: 1) Mindfulness through meditation, specifically vipassana meditation. The Buddha and his students practiced this to attain enlightenment. In reading about vipassana, I came to understand (finally!) why in Chinese Zen schools, it is said that many monks attained enlightenment "in a flash." One story tells of Ananda attaining enlightenment in the motion of lying down on his bed. 2) Knowledge of the law of paticcasamuppada, and putting it into practice in everyday life. The practitioner should apply the law of paticcasamuppada simultaneously with mindfulness, and proceed to higher levels of enlightenment until nirvana.


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