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
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.