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The Way of the Lotus


THE WAY OF THE LOTUS
Professor W.S. Karunaratne PhD. (Lond)
Courtesy : Indunil Karunaratne & VESAK LIPI

The lotus symbolizes the Buddhist way of life. It is bom in the depths of the impure mud. It grows through the unclean waters of the pond. It blossoms forth in all its multi petalled purity and glory on the surface of the pond. In spite of its unclean origin and surrounding its beauty pleases the eye, and its purity chastens the mind and spirit of the onlooker.

Even so the lotus of the individual unfolds itself in the pond of human society. The circumstances of his birth, of procreation and parturition, are impure and unclean. His growth and sustenance, his upbringing and education are associated with suffering and sacrifice, folly and frustration, poverty and privation, disappointment and discouragement, success and failure, gain and loss, fame and disrepute, praise and censure, and happiness and misery. These are the waters of life, the circumstances of the world. But the perfected being, the "arya sravaka", the true disciple of the Buddha, rises above these worldly waters and shines in all his impeccable purity and perfection.

This is the mission of the Master, the ministry of the Sasana, the purpose of the teaching and the function of the disciple. How do we cultivate the lotus-life?

Human life is two-fold - individual and social. The individual is as legitimate a part of life as is the mass of society. Society is the instrument of individual betterment and perfection. Society makes available to us the field for the cultivation of the seeds of the good life. Suffering is both individual and social. Life is indivisible. So is suffering and happiness. Personal salvation is certainly a contribution to the sum of human happiness, to the alleviation of universal suffering. But it is only a part, an insignificant fraction, of the universal sum.

WISDOM AND KARUNA
We owe a duty both to ourselves and to the world around us. Wisdom or prajna helps us to save ourselves. But it is compassion or Karuna that impels us to save the rest of our fellows.
Wisdom is essential to us to help us understand the world in and around ourselves. We ought to be able to state our problems accurately before we could seek to solve them.

Objects, events and persons are governed by a causality which wisdom uncovers to our minds. It is causality that connects our past with our present and continues to bind our present to our unmanifested future. Life is a contiguous chain, an almost perpetual succession of psychophysical states, an almost unending cycle of births and deaths involving pain and suffering.

Our behavior in thought, word and deed is habitually impelled by likes and dislikes which are rooted in ignorance and which are continually determined, governed, influenced and directed by interests. Interests are but ill-concealed manifestations of selfishness sometimes albeit represented as enlightened self-interest. We are strangers to truth and reality as long as we are guided by likes and dislikes. Our actions must be guided by ideas pertaining to truth and error, if we seek to understand the causality that governs our lives.

The chain of life extends into the unmanifested future by means of ever new links forged in the crucible of the triple spring of unwholesome states, that is, avarice or greed, hatred or animosity and confusion or ignorance.
But the strength of the chain depends on the quality of its weakest link. And happily there is a weak link in the chain of life. This is greed and attachment. This is the link that connects two distinct psychological processes in the human mind. The initial process is natural and inevitable, essential to the process of sensory experience.

When stimuli from the external world impinge on the sense organs there is feeling consequent to sensory contact. The psychological process up to this stage is inevitable even in the case of the perfected being. But the next stage is not inevitable. It is avoidable because theconnecting thread here is greed and grasping. This is the discovery of the Buddha, the essence of his enlightenment, and the raison d'etre of the teaching of the Dhamma. This then is the content of wisdom, the heart of sambodhi referred in the books of the Buddhists. Contd>>

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