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The Way of the Lotus


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

Wisdom brings to the individual his happiness and bliss and enables him realise the truth and reality of the universe and attain perfection.
But he has a debt to society. He must need discharge his duties by the world. This is the function of Karuna. The tree bears fruit for the enjoyment of birds, beasts and men. The perfected being bears his wisdom for the benefit of his society. He lives in the world but is not hampered by it. He is in the world but not of the world (loke thito lokena anupalitto). The man who seeks to perfect himself and goes out into the world to make others seek perfection for themselves is the bodhisattva. His function is to seek to elevate and to civilise human life at all times and everywhere. The bodhisattva is the true disciple of the Buddha, the preceptor and the exemplar of the life of the lotus.



Karuna makes us look at the world with different eyes. The vision of truth gives us a passion for service to mankind. We begin to recognise that the problems of the individual are causally connected with the problems of the world. We begin to dedicate ourselves to the noblest of all consecrations, namely, service to our fellow men. Our life is a constant pilgrimage to perfection and our sorrows are inextricably bound up with those of our fellows in society.

Inner change in head and heart is primary and necessary for individual perfection. But for social betterment inner change alone is not enough. We must also effect an outer change in our environment in terms of institutions.

There are two basic tendencies at work in the historical process. The first tendency makes us uphold and defend those institutions which are hallowed by age and tradition. But life is in flux and everything in our lives is subject to change. New social contexts make older institutions futile and outmoded. Our temptation to hold fast to established institutions makes us conservatives determined to perpetuate the status quo. This brings about the second tendency to react to the old order, to call its validity in question and to seek to overthrow it in one way or another. When these two tendencies come in conflict there is progress and betterment at the end of debate and discussion. This is the dialectics of history as taught by the Buddha in consonance with his dynamic view of social evolution and functional origin of the growth of society.

Change is a simple truth but full of profound possibilities. People change for better or for worse. Karuna gives us the determination and resolve to make every instance of change to manifest itself as a change for the better. The disciple of the Buddha sees in the doctrine of impermanence the fascinating possibilities for individual and social betterment. The conquest of the self leads the disciple to sacrifice his career for the common good of his society and community.

The Buddha is the living embodiment of the Dhamma. The Dhamma is likened to the lotus. The lotus dominates the symbolism of Buddhist art. The lotus represents the Buddha and his Dhamma at once. The Buddha statue rests on the lotus. The mural paintings in the Buddhist temple depict the lotus. The lotus is the simile and metaphor par excellence of the poets and writers who sing the praise of the Buddha and his Dhamma, The lotus is the flower par excellence which the devotee places at the feet of the Buddha in paying him homage and obeisance. <<Back

INTRODUCING THE WRITER
Professor W.S. Karunaratne PhD. (Lond). F.L Woodward Prize winner of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Served as Professor of Buddhist Philosophy. University of Ceylon. He passed away in 1986.
Courtesy: BUDDHIST ESSAYS Publisher: Indunil Karunaratne

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