Percy Nanayakkara

Namothassa Bhagavatho Arahatho Samma Sambuddhassa
"Honor to Him, the Master, the Exalted, the Buddha supreme."
A human being is a composition of Nama (mind) and Rupa (matter). Rupa (matter) is merely a manifestation of forces. Sages of ancient India believed in an indivisible atom-Paramanu. Analyzing this so-called indivisible atom, the Buddha declared it to be a manifestation of inter-connected forces, which he called Paramatthas (fundamental units of matter). These Paramatthas are Pathavi, Apo, Thejo and Vayo. Pathavi means the element of extension; Apo, the element of cohesion; Thejo, the element of heat, and Vayo, the element of motion. These four elements of matter are combined with the four derivatives, viz. Vanna (color), Gandha (odor), Rasa (taste) and Oja (nutritive essence). These elements and derivatives are inseparable and inter-related, but are present in varying proportions. In water, for instance, the element of cohesion preponderates over the other three, and in fire, the element of heat.
Nama (mind), which is the most important in the so-called being, is a compound of fleeting mental states, and is analyzed into Vedana (sensations), Sanna (perception), Sankhara (tendencies) and Vinnana (consciousness). These five Khandhas- Rupa, Vendana, Sanna, Sankhara, Vinnana-the aggregates of existence, are a composition of physical and psychical elements, which together form an individual person. Thus a human being is a complex compound of five aggregates which are in a constant state of flux. A particular combination of these five aggregates constitutes one's individuality. They are severally and collectively impermanent, non-substantial, and there is no permanent entity residing in them. In Buddha's Second Discourse is enunciated the doctrine of phenomenality of the individual, where He declares that five aggregates are devoid of any Atman-a soul. "The words 'living entity' or 'ego' are but a mode of expression for the presence of the five aggregates, but when we come to examine the elements one by one, we discover that, in the absolute sense, there is no 'living entity' there to form the basis for such figments as 'I am' or 'I'; in other words, that in the absolute sense, there is only Nama and Rupa," says Buddhaghosa in Visuddhi Magga.
Buddha makes it clear that it is wrong to think of consciousness as something permanent. consciousness is a changing factor. As heat and light are manifestations of a glowing bar of steel, Vinnana is the manifestation of the electrical activity of the living brain.
The mental electrons come into existence, endure, though, for a moment and disappear. Every state of consciousness has three phases: Uppada (genesis), Thiti (development) and Bhanga (dissolution). Each of these occupies only a Kshana, an infinitesimal division of time. Cittakkhana is the space of three instants in which a state of consciousness becomes, exists and vanishes.
Buddhism tells us that the only reality is the spark-like sequence of actions which we see as a continuity. In self, which we imagine to be, there is only a sequence of fleeting impressions, sensations, pains and pleasures which succeed one another in amazing rapidity, but without any link between them, or an entity functioning over and above them.
" The whole world is empty, O' Ananda, of a self, or of anything of the nature of self. And what is it that is thus empty? The five seats of the five senses and the mind, and the feeling that is related to mind; all these are void of a self, or of anything that is self-like"-Samyutta Nikaya.
Hence this self that we imagine to be is a Maya-an illusion. Through our senses we observe many a 'reality' around us. We see and feel that they are real. But, says He, nothing exists 'statically' except our thought of it. As we hold the thought 'statically' in our minds, the thing itself has already changed. The whole world is but a dynamic reality. Everything is static only in the mind's eye. The entire universe is in perpetual flux. All manifestations are the result of various degrees of frequency. The degree of molecular frequency is one, the degree of light frequency is another, the degree of frequency that manifests itself as life is yet another. The elements of existence are but of momentary appearance.
"In each individual, without any exception, the relation of its component parts to one another is ever changing, so that it is never the same for two consecutive moments. It follows that no sooner has separateness begun than dissolution and disintegration also begin; there can be no individuality without a putting together; there can be no putting-together without a becoming; there can be no becoming without a becoming different; there can be no becoming deferent without dissolution, a passing away, which sooner or later becomes inevitably complete."
Rhys Davids.
"One state of consciousness arises, yet another ceases. Thus these states of mind and matter move in sequence, like a river's flow." These teachings of the Buddha are in no way in conflict with modern science. In fact, modern science has often supported and vindicated His views about the Universe and the nature of existence. Prof. Radhakrishnan, in his book Indian Philosophy, observes, " A wonderful philosophy of dynamism was formulated by Buddha 2500 years ago; a philosophy which is being recreated for us by the discoveries of modern science and the adventures of modern thought." The electro-magnetic theory of matter has brought about a revolution in the general concept of the nature of physical reality. It is no more static stuff but radiant energy. An analogous change has pervaded the world of psychology, and the title of a modern book by M. Bergson Mind Energy-indicates the change in the theory of physical reality. "Impressed by the transitoriness of objects, the ceaseless mutation and transformation of things, Buddha formulated a philosophy of change. He reduces substances, souls, monads, things, to forces, movements, sequences and processes and extinctions. It is a stream of becoming. The world of sense and science is from moment to moment. It is a recurring rotation of birth and death. What ever be the duration of any state of being, yet all is becoming. All things change. All schools of Buddhism agree that there is nothing human or divine that is permanent." 2400 years after Buddha, Marx echoed the same dynamism. Marx's main contribution to philosophy is his theory of Dialectical Materialism. "The world is in a state of flux and there is nothing static in it." Says Friedrich Engles in his Dialectics of Nature," Dialectical thought, precisely because it presupposes investigation of the nature of concepts, is only possible for man, and for him only at a comparatively high stage of development, as it was with the Buddhists and Greeks."
The mind acquires through the sense organs perceptions of the outer world. These perceptions result in impressions and ideas. Thus all that the human mind contains can be grouped into three-that which was in the mind at birth, that which entered through the organs and that which develops out of these two. "Mind in itself is believed to be a subtle form of static energy," writes Kenneth Walker in his book - Meaning and Purpose, "from which arise the activities called thought, which is the dynamic phase of mind . Mind is static energy, thought is dynamic energy-the two phases of the same thing." Thus the vibratory force produced in the conversion of static mind into dynamic mind is thought.
Vinnana (consciousness) is in evolution. From the singled-celled organism, arising from the coming together of right molecules, evolved the multi-cellular creatures of which the most developed is man. Our human consciousness is the evolutionary extension of the consciousness of the unicellular organism. From the embryonic stage of consciousness emerges, after a long process, the self- consciousness in man.
Life and mind, electrons and electricity, are all manifestations of one static unchanging force. Even in the mechanism of the universe, Buddhism sees law and order. "The great wheel of cosmic order goes on, but it is A-Karaka, without maker, without known beginning, continuing to exist by virtue of a concatenation of cause and effect." This causal order of the universe is emphasized everywhere in Buddhism.
"But 29 was I, when I renounced The world, Subaddha, seeking after good. For 50 years and yet another year, since I went out, a pilgrim I have been. Through the wide realm of system and of law, Outside thereof no victory can be won."
Having discussed, though briefly, this dynamic reality, we may now proceed to understand what Kamma is. For Kamma necessarily leads to re-birth.
"Cetanaham, Bhikkhave, kammam vadami"-
O'Bhikkhus, I declare kamma as volition.
Kamma literally means action or deed. In the ultimate Buddhistic sense, Kamma means volition or volitional activity, both good and evil. This doctrine of Kamma take the place of the 'theory of souls'. Buddha denied the transmigration of a soul. What He taught was the survival of 'character.' The Buddha held that it was only Kamma that survived after one's death,-that is to say the result of all bodily and mental actions and deeds. The doctrine of Kamma reckons with the material or the context in which each individual is born. The doctrine of Kamma is the law of moral causation. Speaking in terms of the ethical realm, it is nothing but action and reaction. It must be remembered that Kamma is not only past actions. It is both past and present actions. It is not fate; it is one's own actions which react on one's own self. It is thus a law in itself, but without a doer or maker. Inherent in it is its potentiality of producing effect. It is an individual force which is transmitted from one existence to another. "O'Maharaja" replies Nagasena in Milinda Prasna, "Kamma is not stored some where in this fleeting consciousness or in any other part of the body. But dependent on mind and matter it rests manifesting itself at the opportune moment; just as mangoes are not said to be stored somewhere in the mango tree, but depending on the mango tree they lie springing up in due season."
Kamma is not the only universal law that explains the diversity in the world. It is but one of the five universal laws: the other four being Utu Niyama-the physical inorganic order, e.g. the phenomena of winds and rain; Bija Niyama-the physical organic order, e.g. the order of germs and seeds; Dhamma Niyama-order of the norm, e.g. gravitation and other laws of nature; Citta Niyama-the order of mind or psychic law, e.g. arising and perishing of consciousness.
The doctrine of Kamma fills us with hope. It gives us hope, self-reliance and moral courage. It validates our efforts and kindles our enthusiasm. In a lawless universe all our endeavors will be futile; but in a world of law and order, we feel secure and could guide ourselves with the help of our knowledge. Free will, in terms of an undetermined, unrelated, uncaused factor in human actions, cannot be admitted. Such a free will is beyond all analysis. Modern psychology confirm that man is capable of triumph over himself and his environment. In kamma we do not find a 'fate' imposed from without, but a self-made destiny that is perpetually being remade by its creator. Hence man is not a mere product of nature. He is the creator of Kamma, and therefore is mightier.
Kamma has two aspects-the cosmic aspect and the psychological aspect. Every action not only produces its effect in the outside world, but also an impression in the human mind. This impression develops a tendency in us to repeat it. So far as the effects are concerned, we cannot escape them. But the impression in the mind which produces a tendency to repeat itself can be controlled. If we endeavor we could mold our Kamma. It is not a thing that is complete and static, but a constant becoming, in which the future is not only shaped by the past, but recast by the present. Our duty to ourselves is to rise higher by developing our 'character'. As T.H.Huxley says "Buddhism is a system that knows no God in the western sense , which denies the soul to man, which counts the belief in immortality a blunder, which refuses any efficacy to prayer and sacrifice, which bids all human beings to look to nothing but their own efforts for salvation".
Kamma inevitably results in rebirth. The present birth has been conditioned by past Kamma, and the present Kamma in combination with the past Kamma will condition the future birth. In his book-Body and Mind, Mac Dougall says, "I gravely doubt whether whole nations could rise to the level of an austere morality, or even maintain a decent working standard of conduct, after losing a belief in a future life and other positive religious beliefs."
Paticca Samuppada or Dependent Origination explains this process of birth and death. Dependent Origination is not an explanation of the origin of the universe, nor does it try to explain the evolution of man. It deals with the process of birth and death, and that alone.
Avijja or ignorance is the first link or the cause of the cycle of life. It is the origination of the basic negative thoughts of Greed, Hatred and Delusion. Dependent on ignorance arise volitional activities-Sankhara. Dependent on these volitional activities arises Vinnana or relinking Consciousness. It is this Vinnana that links the past with the present, and the present with the future. Along with the arising of Relinking Consciousness, there come into being Mind and Matter - Nama and Rupa. Simultaneous with the arising of Mind and Matter, the six senses - Sala-yatana-arise as being inevitable. Because of the six senses, contact or Phassa sets in. Contact leads to sensations-Vedana. Dependent on sensations craving or Tanha sets in. Craving produces attachment -Upadana. Attachment conditions Kamma, which inevitably conditions future births. If on account of a cause an effect comes to be, then if the cause ceases, the effect also must cease. Says the Buddha, "That being present, this becomes; from the arising of that, this arises. That being absent, this does not become; from the cessation of that, this ceases." This same concept is echoed in The Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology thus, "Every event is the result or sequel of some preview event or events, without which it could not have happened, and which being present it must become."
The German mathematician, Leibnitz, wrote, "I am able to prove that not light, color, heat and the like, but motion, shape and extension too are mere apparent qualities." Einstein carried this line of reasoning further by showing that even space and time are forms of intuition which can no more be divorced from consciousness than can our concept of color or, shape or size. Space has no objective reality except as an order or arrangement of objects we perceive in it, and time has no independent existence apart from the order of events by which we measure it. Buddhist psychology teaches how through one-pointedness of mind, we can make our thoughts transcend space and time. It is only then that we are able to perceive phenomena objectively. Through the development of this faculty, Buddha could observe how people die and are reborn in other spheres of existence. " With clairvoyant vision, purified and supernatural, I perceive beings disappearing from one state of existence and reappearing in another."
A dying man takes for the object of dying-thought one of the following; a Kamma, a Kamma Nimitta, or Gati Nimitta. Kamma means an action or deed. It may either be a good deed or an evil one. Kamma Nimitta means any sight, sound, smell, taste, touch or idea which was obtained at the time of the doing of the kamma. By Gati Nimitta is meant some sign or idea of the place where one would be re-born. With one of these as the object, a thought process runs its course. This thought process takes place even if it is an instantaneous one. Even an insect which is being crushed experiences this thought process before it actually dies. Death means an end of the psycho-physical life of one's existence. But the 'character' reappears. The Kammic force transmits itself to another life. Thus the continuity in the particular life-flux is maintained. In accordance with the principle in physics called the Law of Conservation of Energy and Indestructibility of Matter, we could say with certainty that at the end of the psycho-physical life of one's existence nothing is lost. The fundamental units of matter find their way to appropriate places. But what happens to our psychic energy? According to Freud there is nothing mystical or supernatural about the concept of psychic energy. Energy takes many forms. It may be mechanical, thermal, electrical, chemical and psychic. Psychic energy performs work or is capable of performing work as does any other form of energy.
Psychic energy performs psychological functions such as thinking, perceiving and remembering, just as mechanical energy performs mechanical functions. In harmony with the Law of Conservation of Energy, after death this psychic energy continues to manifest itself in another sphere of existence. The continuity and the consistency of one's 'character' constitutes one's identity.
The 'personality' or 'character' is not something one is endowed with at birth. It is something we are perpetually remaking as we live day to day life. Amazing but colossal characters like Homer and Plato, geniuses like Shakespeare and infant prodigies like Pascal and Rapheal cannot be regarded as products of one life. We have heard of little children conversant with many languages and varied subjects. "Heinecken talked within a few hours of his birth at Lubec in 1721, could repeat passages from the Bible at the age of one, answer any question on Geography at two, speak French and Latin at three and at the age of four was a student of philosophy." "Sidis of U.S. could read and write at two, spoke French, Russian, English, German with some Latin and Greek at eight, and lectured to a gathering of professors on the Fourth Dimension at the age of eleven." Not heredity, but similar experience gathered in earlier births could adequately explain how these characters could reach such heights. Even the most orthodox psychologist believes that man is poly-psychic. Henry Ford, one of world's greatest industrialists and richest men, once said, " Some seem to think that it is a gift or a talent, but it is the fruit of long experience in many lives....Perhaps I ought to explain that I believe we are reincarnated.. We live many lives and store up much experience ....It seems to be an intuitive 'gift'. It is really hard-won experience.........Besides, it offers an intelligent explanation of the inequalities of life, of the difference in wisdom and maturity of people born into the world."
The denial of the existence of a permanent entity or soul does not amount to a denial of the 'real self' that actually exists in man's character. Buddhism does not wipe out the personality of man, but the false idea of a metaphysical character of personality. One's character is the crystallization of one's past history, and this can be known and understood by one's impulses and tendencies in the present birth. We may try to wipe out all the past from the brain memory. yet it would remain in our character. Each moment of existence recreates and modifies our character. Each moment of existence recreates and modifies our character. The present character is the result of stored-up memory of many lives.
In the Second Discourse, Buddha says, 'Now this, O'Bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of Suffering. Birth is suffering, decay is suffering, disease is suffering, death is suffering, to be separated from the pleasant is suffering, to be united with the unpleasant is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates of attachment are suffering."
"Now this, O'Bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering. It is the craving which produces rebirth, accompanied by passionate clinging, welcoming this and that (life). It is the craving for Kama Tanha(sensual pleasure, corresponding to Freudian 'Libido'), craving for Bhava Tanha (becoming, corresponding to Freudian 'Eros'), and the craving for Vibhava Tanha (annihilation, corresponding to Freudian 'Thanatos')".
This desire or selfishness is the source of all misery. H.G. Wells, in his book, "Three Greatest Men in History", says, "In the Buddha you clearly see a man, simple, devout, lonely, battling for light, a vivid personality, not a myth. Beneath a mass of miraculous fables, I feel there was also a man. He too gave a message to mankind, universal in its character. Many of our best modern ideas are in closest harmony with it. All the miseries and discontents of life are due, He taught to selfishness.
Selfishness takes three forms; one, the desire to satisfy the senses; another the craving for immortality; and the third is the desire for prosperity, worldliness. Before a man can become serene he must cease to live for his senses or himself. Then he emerges into a greater being. Buddha, in different language, called man to self-forgetfulness five hundred years before Christ, and less ambiguous upon the question of personal immortality."
Our existence is mistaken to be one long pursuit of happiness and pleasures. It is in reality a continuous stream of both content and misery. All the misery proceeds from Avijja (ignorance). It hides the real nature of life, and therefore is the true cause of human misery. "One can go on living" said Tolstoy, "when one is intoxicated with life; as soon as one is sober, it is impossible not to see that it is all a mere fraud."
Life in itself is not worth living. That which gives it value or worth is the use to which it is put and the purpose to which it is dedicated. That purpose is to guide ourselves to the threshold of blissful existence. Our existence is impermanent and unsubstantial. No human being can escape death. As such it is our duty to achieve that which is beyond change.
To become or not to become, that is the question.