Monday, December 28, 2009


Dear Friends,

We are pleased to inform that our meditation teacher Visu and his wife Barbara are back from Europe after a five-month teaching stint — leading metta and vipassana retreats at various European centres.

Visu will resume his meditation classes at House of Inward Journey (52 Rangoon Road, Level D, Penang) every Tuesday and Thursday beginning on Jan 19 2010 until further notice.

The program is as follows:


8:00pm to 9:00pm — Metta (Lovingkindness) Meditation

9:00pm to 10:00pm — Dhamma Talk and Discussion


8:00pm to 9:00pm — Vipassana (Insight) Meditation

9:00pm to 10:00pm — Dhamma Talk and Discussion

For those of you who have been attending Visu's classes from February to June this year you are most welcome to resume practice with Visu.

For those who have not have the benefit to practice with Visu you are most welcome to now take the opportunity to do so.

If you have friends who are interested in learning meditation please invite them to come along. Visu will give simple and precise instructions to newcomers and beginners.

For the talk on Tuesday Jan 19 Visu will elaborate on the benefits of metta practice — why it is so helpful in our everyday life. This talk is aimed at motivating you to maintain a strong metta practice.

We will appreciate if you can send us an SMS or email or give us a phone call to confirm your attendance.

I can be reached at my mobile phone 012 4302893.


If you have any enquiries please contact me.

With metta (lovingkindness),

Sunanda Lim

* * *

More information below on Metta and Vipassana Meditation:

M E T T A (Lovingkindness)

May all beings be happy.

May they be safe.

May they be peaceful.

May they be healthy.

May they take care of themselves happily.

Metta is a Pali word meaning lovingkindness, goodwill, friendliness, benevolence, non-hatred, non-anger, non-irritation and non-annoyance.

Metta Meditation is the cultivation of lovingkindness, friendliness, benevolence, and goodwill through the continuous generating of wholesome thoughts and well wishes towards oneself, loved ones, friends, people we know and all beings in general.

Metta practice helps to free our hearts from hatred, anger and ill-will. It has a very positive effect on both oneself and others and is conducive to improving our relationships. We come to be more patient, tolerant, loving, friendly, kind and understanding in our relationships with others.

Metta meditation provides a wonderful complement to Vipassana (Insight) meditation as it helps us to develop concentration that can aid and support our Vipassana practice.

* * *

V I P A S S A N A (Insight)

Vipassana or Insight meditation is the direct and clear seeing into the true nature of mental and physical phenomena. It involves the application of mindfulness to closely observe our mind and body processes during formal sitting and walking meditation and in all other activities.

With practice we gain calm and peace as well as insight into our mental conditioning, behavioural patterns and habits. We learn how to cultivate, sustain and strengthen wholesome and joyful states of mind while diminishing the unwholesome and painful.

We will develop a skillful approach that is conducive to peace, joy and happiness in all aspects of our daily life.

Our practice is based on the Buddha's Discourse on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. These are Body, Feelings, Consciousness or Mind States, and Dhammas/Phenomena. We will learn how to observe and investigate all these in our direct and immediate experience.

In due course we will come to understand what the Buddha called "The Three Marks of Existence" — Impermanence, Suffering/Unsatisfactoriness, and Not-Self.

The deep and profound understanding of these fundamental truths will lead to the liberation of the mind from all clinging and delusion that lie at the root of all suffering. Peace, release and happiness are the fruits of the practice.

Vipassana promotes true happiness, fulfillment and freedom in life while leading the practitioner to the ultimate and highest peace and happiness of Nibbana, the end of all craving/greed/attachment, hatred/anger/aversion and ignorance/delusion.

* * *


Visu (shortened from his full Pali name Visuddhacara) has been practising the Dhamma and meditation since 1982. He was born in Penang, Malaysia, in 1953. He was a journalist for 12 years and a Buddhist monk for 17 years before he returned to the lay life in 2003. He has studied with several meditation masters, notably Sayadaw U Pandita, Sayadaw U Lakkhana, Sayadaw U Jatila and Ven Sujiva. He is married and has led retreats in Asia, Australia and Europe. He is the author of several books including “Curbing Anger Spreading Love,” “Drinking Tea Living Life: Applying Mindfulness in Everyday Life and Critical Times”, “Loving and Dying” and “Hello with Love and other Meditations.”

Visu’s emphasis in his teaching is on the integration of the Dhamma in everyday life while striving for the ultimate release of Nibbana. He stresses the importance of cultivating lovingkindness, joy and happiness in the present moment while on our journey towards Enlightenment.

Retreat in Ireland July 2009

Retreat in Czech Republic Oct 2009

Visu and Barbara in Holland Sept 2009

Giving Dhamma Talk at Kuching Dhamma Vijaya Centre,
Kuching, Dec 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

One Day Retreat at Santarama 2009

Vipassana Meditation Retreat Conduct
by Sister Gavesini (Gin)

Video Camera
by Lee Tiam Poh

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


A Day Retreat on

8th November 2009


138 Mukim 5
Balik Pulau (Rumah Bukit)
11000 Penang

The Retreat Time Table

7 November 2009

5.00 - 6.30 pm: Arrival/Registration/Check-In
6.30 - 7.00 pm: Tea Break
7.00 - 8.00 pm: Taking 8 Precept & Briefing
8.00 - 10.00 pm: Dhamma Talk, Q&A
10.00 - 10.30 pm: Metta Chanting & Transference of Merits
10.30 - 11.00 pm: Refreshment

8 November 2009

5.00 - 5.30 am: Morning wake-up bell & Washing up
5.30 - 6.15 am: Walking Meditation
6.15 - 7.00 am: Sitting Meditation
7.00 - 8.30 am: Breakfast & Washing Up/ Shower
8.30 - 9.30 am: Walking Meditation
9.30 - 10.30 am: Sitting Meditation
10.30 - 11.00 am: Walking Meditation/Shower
11.00 - 12.00 noon: Lunch
12.00 - 1.00 pm: Rest/Shower/ Interview
1.00 - 2.00 pm: Walking Meditation
2.00 - 3.00 pm: Sitting Meditation
3.00 - 4.00 pm: Tea Break/Walking Meditation
4.00 - 5.00 pm: Sitting Meditation/ Group Interview
5.00 - 6.00 pm: Sitting Meditation/ Group Interview
6.00 - 6.15 pm: Cleaning Up & Packing
6.15 - 6.30 pm: Talk & Transference of Merits
6.45 pm: Departure

Reminders for items to bring

-Sleeping bag/blanket/mattress/ pillow/bedsheet
-Water bottle/drinking water
-Meditation cushion (optional)
-Mosquito and insect repellent
-Long sleeve shirt and trousers
-Bathing towel and toiletries
-Own preferred food (breakfast and lunch)
-Umbrella/raincoat (optional)

Also please be reminded to bring along your filled-up registration form on the day of retreat.

For further information, please contact

Sister Gin 012-348 2703
Kean Beng 016-400 8053
Hong Bian 016-443 8594

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


These sessions are only opened to those
who have attended the Tuesday night course.

There will be sitting and walking meditation sessions at House of Inward Journey with Sis. Gavesini (Gin) every Thursday, starting 1 Oct 2009. These sessions are meant for those who prefer to practise in a group environment on an on-going basis. No talks or lesson notes will be given in these sessions as Noble Silence will be observed during the practice sessions. The details of the sessions are as follows:

8.00 - 8.45 pm Walking Meditation
8.45 - 9.30 pm Sitting meditation
9.30 - 10.15 pm Interview/Q & A


Lesson Three

Monday, September 21, 2009

Walkathon to Create More Welfare Activities

檀 香 爱 心 福 利 会

Than Hsiang Mitra Welfare Association
No.14, Jalan 1/3, 46000 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Than Hsiang Mitra Welfare Association was founded by Venerable Wei Wu in the year 1993. The Association carries out welfare activities with the aim of creating a peaceful, harmony and caring society and environment.

Aimed to raise fund for the commencement of more activities in Kuala Lumpur, the Association has decided to organize a Walkathon, which will be held on:

1st November 2009 (Sunday)
7:00am to 11:00am
Taman Jaya, Petaling Jaya

The Association would like to seek your sponsorship in supporting this walkathon event.
Your sponsorship to this event is very much appreciated.

For more information,
please visit the Association's website @
or call: 603 - 7782 6414 / 603- 7785 4143

Thank you.

Ven. Zhen Man

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vipassana Meditation? What is that?

It was the second lesson of the Vipassana Meditation Course. Arriving yogis were filling up the meditation hall as the clock indicated five minutes more before striking 8. Everyone sitting in the hall was eagerly waiting for Sister Gin, the instructor, to break out the noble silence session by delivering her lecture for the day. Most of them came to this meditation lesson to satisfy their curiosity on two major questions ‘What is Meditation’ and ‘Why do we meditate’ playing in their mind.

A few minutes later, the lady instructor in white blouse and longy (sarong) made her way mindfully across the centre of the meditation hall towards the instructor’s seat. Finally, Sister Gin was in position and ready to clear out the doubts and qualms about the purpose for meditating. Despite that she had given a brief introduction on Vipassana meditation in the first lesson last week, yet some of the yogis still hold vague views towards Vipassana meditation is intended to create miracles and psychic powers.

She started her talk with some facts on ‘what Vipassana is not’ so that people could understand that meditation is not for gaining supernatural power, for praising the Gods and deities, for the ability fortune telling, for whispering to unseen beings. It is also not a skill to have perfect control over one’s mind nor is it to run away from reality and problems in life.

The proper sitting meditation postures were also taught in the lesson as the most essential basic knowledge for meditation practice, that is to keep the back (spine) straight and leg crossed as it is a very stable and conducive way for the development of deep concentration. Sister Gin also mentioned that Yogis with special needs may sit on the chair instead (back pain, spinal problems, pregnancy etc).

After providing clear descriptions of different meditation postures, Sister Gin went around to provide guided supervisions to assist fellow yogis in correcting their postures individually. Surprisingly, most of the first-timer yogis got their posture correct in the 15 minutes self practice and look forward to attend the next session next week.

Sobhana Tan & Hong Bian

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Introduction Class @ 8th September 2009

For those who are still interested to
attend this meditation course,
they may register on this coming 2nd class,
15th September, Tuesday.

Kindly take note that the whole course consists of 8 weekly lessons
(not 7 weekly as stated previously) and a one-day retreat.
The course is held every Tuesday from 8.00 pm to 10.00 pm and
conducted by Sister Gavesini (Sister Gin),
an experienced meditation instructor, who has been
practising for more than 25 years.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Insight (Vipassana)
Meditation Course

with Sister Gavesini (Sis. Gin)

@ House of Inward Journey
8th Sept 09 - 31st Oct 09
Every Tuesday (8pm - 10pm)


This meditation course is tailored for busy people who want to learn up the basic technique of Insight Meditation in a systematic way within a short period of time.

Interested participants are encouraged to attend the whole course, which consists of 7 weekly lessons and a one-day retreat, spread out over 2 months. To acquire the maximum benefit from this course, participants are highly recommended to practice at home on a regular daily basis during that period.

Instructions together with handouts and interviews will be given at every lesson by the Course Instructor.

  • Lesson 1 : What is Meditation? Samatha & Vipassana, Preliminaries
  • Lesson 2 : Sitting Meditation — Posture & Basic Principles
  • Lesson 3 : Walking & Standing Meditation
  • Lesson 4 : How To Report At Interviews & The 6 Temperaments
  • Lesson 5 : Mindfulness of Sensations — Sitting and Touching
  • Lesson 6 : Mindfulness of Consciousness
  • Lesson 7 : Mindfulness of Mental Objects — The Five Hindrances
  • (Retreat) 8 : Joy & Bliss of Meditation

Please come in loose clothing like track bottoms, slacks, sarong or long skirts and bring along your 'zafu' (meditation cushion) or even a towel/blanket will do.


Sister Gavesini (Gin) became interested in Buddhism in the early 70s. She started practising meditation with Ven. Sujiva in Malaysian Buddhist Meditation Centre, Penang, when he returned from Burma. Then for nearly 20 years she frequently travelled to Burma to practise intensive meditation with Sayadaw U Pandita and ordained as a temporary Tilashin (nun) in Mahasi Centre, Yangon in 1986. She also spent some time practising with Sayadaw U Kundala at Sadhammaramsi Yeiktha. Beside Vipassana meditation, she also practised Samatha meditation with Sayadaw U Pandita at Saddhamma Retreat in Oregon, USA. As a lay teacher she has taught meditation in various Buddhist Centres in PJ, Klang, Kajang and KL. For the past 8 years, since retiring from teaching actively she has been on self-retreat, mainly in Burma, Malaysia, Thailand (Chiang Mai), Australia (Bodhinyana, Serpentine) and New Zealand. She moved to Auckland, New Zealand in 2002. Since her return to Malaysia in September 2007, she has been on intensive self-retreats for a total of 11 months.

To register and for more information please call:

  • Sunanda Lim (012 4302893)
  • Hong Bian (016 4438594)
  • House of Inward Journey (04 2262893)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How Teachings of the Buddha are preserved over 2500 years (Part 2)

Ashoka (Asoka) Pillar

Before we continue to Buddha’s teachings been documented in the Fourth Buddhist Council, let us go a little more to what had actually happened in the Third Buddhist Council. During the ruling of King Asoka (Ashoka) in India, there was a serious issue within the Sangha as a number of unworthy men who were greedy, faithless and held wrong views, infiltrated the order and caused the respect for the Sangha diminished. King Asoka put a solution to the matter by appointing the Elder, Venerable Moggaliputta Tissa to examine monks from different monasteries about the teachings of Buddha and those who held heretical views were expelled from the Sangha. After the reshuffle of the Sangha order, the Third Buddhist Council was called by Venerable Moggaliputta Tissa in order to ensure that the Dhamma was kept to the purest. At that time all the Three Baskets of the Vinaya, Sutta and Abhidhamma were recited and reconfirmed. King Asoka also ordered several missions of the Dhamma to be sent to the outlying areas of the Asoka Empire for disseminating the Buddha’s teachings to the respective local people in places, such as Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Gandhara (currently Pakistan and Afganistan), Greece, Himalayas and Suvannabhumi (currently Burma and Thailand).

Gandhāra (Sanskrit: गन्धार, Pashto:ګندهارا, Urdu: گندھارا Gandḥārā; also known as Waihind in Persian) is the name of
an ancient kingdom (Mahajanapada
located in
northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan.

According to Buddhism history, there were two recorded Fourth Buddhist Councils. The first one was held in Sri Lanka in the 1st Century BCE. In this Fourth Buddhist council the Tipitaka was for the first time committed to writing on palm leaves after centuries been memorized and recited. The second one was held in Kashmir by the Sarvastivada school around the First Century AD.

The first Fourth Buddhist Council was held in Tambapanni (Sri Lanka) under the ruling of King Vattagamani. The main reason for holding this council was that the challenge for most of the monks to memorize and retain the entire Tipitaka, as a result passing down the complete could be a problem in the long run. Since the technique of documentation was available at that time, the best possible way to preserve the entire body of the Buddha’s teachings was to have them written down. In the council, Venerable Maharakkhita and five hundred monks recited the words of the Buddha and wrote them down on palm leaves. Later on, these palm leaves scriptures were taken to countries like Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

"Wars, famines and also the introduction of wrong beliefs
and wrong practice made it difficult to preserve the teachings.
Finally, in 89 B.C., the teachings were committed to writing.
Five hundred monks undertook this great enterprise
in the cave of Aluvihara (Alulena Vihara)...."

~ Nina van Gorkom (Pilgrimage in Sri Lanka) ~

The second Fourth Buddhist Council was believed held by the Kushan emperor Kanishka in Kashmir, about a century AD, however the adaptation of this council was not regarded as convincing in Theravada and all the scriptures compiled here can only be found in the Mahayana traditions. Emperor Kanishka gathered 500 monks to compile the commentaries on Sarvastivadin Abhidharma and produced an extensive compendium, known as the Maha-Vibhasha.

The Kushan Empire (c. 1st–3rd centuries CE)
was originally formed in the territories of ancient Bactria
either side of the middle course of the Oxus River or
Amu Darya
in what is now northern Afghanistan,
and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan

For more than 2500 years, the Buddha’s teachings were still well kept and utilised till today although it might not be a full record of all His words. What we could get today is the essence that was commonly agreeable by all the members from the First Buddhist Council which was held 3 months after Buddha left. So His 45 years of teachings could be more complex and more absolute back in those days compared to what we have today are just the extracts from the previous council members’ memory, upon agreeable.

Tradition holds that the First Council was held in a hall erected
by Ajatasattu
outside the
Sattapanniguha Cave
Sanskrit: Sattaparnaguha) in Rajgir,
three months after the Buddha
had died.
Detailed accounts of the council can be found in

the Khandhaka sections of the canonical Vinayas.

is a city and a notified area in
Nalanda district
in the Indian state of Bihar.The city of Rajgir (ancient Rajagriha or
Rājagṛha; Pali
: Rājagaha)
was the first capital of the kingdom of Magadha
a state that
would eventually evolve
into the Mauryan

Less we forget, the Buddha’s teachings are all about challenging one to put everything one experiencing into question and test before accepting them as a direction of practice. People are encouraged by the Buddha not to simply believe everything he said to be true. As much as we know the Tipitaka or the Pali canon only offers as a valuable guidance towards ultimate truth, it is important to exercise our analytical wisdom for reasoning the truth rather than merely trusting in what the suttas and the scriptures documented.

In Kalama Sutta, Buddha cited:
Do not go upon
what has been acquired by repeated hearing;

nor upon faith or tradition;
nor upon rumour;
nor upon what is in a scripture;
nor upon mere logical reasoning;
nor upon mere philosophical reasoning;
nor upon mere outward appearance;
nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over;
nor upon another’s seeming ability;
nor upon the consideration, “The monk is our teacher”.

But whatever, after due examination and analysis, you yourselves directly know, “These things are wholesome, blameless, praised by the wise; when adopted and carried out, they are benefit and lead to well-being, prosperity and happiness,” then you should accept and practise them.

In this sutta, Gautama Buddha passes through
the village of Kesaputta (in ancient Kurukshetra state and
presently known as Haryana state in India) and is greeted
by the people who live there: the Kalamas.
The Kalamas greet the Buddha and ask for advice.
According to the Kalamas, many wandering holy men
and ascetics pass through the village,
expounding their teachings and criticizing others'.
The Kalamas ask the Buddha whose teachings they should follow.
In response, he delivered a sutta that serves as
an entry-point to Buddhist beliefs to
those unconvinced by revelatory experiences.
~ Raj Kumar Oshora
(Lord Buddha: The Greatest Son of India
and World Peace Emblem) ~

Samurai Beng, the Dhamma warrior

In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon (Teachings of the Buddha)   The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching   Buddha's Teachings [With Headphones] (Playaway Adult Nonfiction)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

TO SHARE (Compartilhar)

Joyfully Sharing the Merit    Love and Sharing

GESTURE OF LOVE (Gesto de Amor)


The Video that Won First Place at Cannes

Very beautiful video clip. This is what Buddha taught about spontaneous response (no agenda, just go with the flow in a positive way) ~ Swas Tan

Thanks Swas & Molly for sharing this touching video clip

Teachings on Love   As The Water Flows

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Visu & Barbara

So far we have led an eight-day vipassana retreat in The Dharma House in the south of France (June 30 to July 7), two meditation workshops totalling five days for patients and therapists at the Hochgrat and Adula Health Clinics in the Allgaeu, the German Alps, (July 16 to 18, July 24 & 25) and a ten-day metta retreat at the Passaddhi Meditation Centre in Leitrim Beg, south-west Ireland (July 30 to Aug 9).

Pix of our Irish retreat showing the group of participants,
the most beautiful meditation walking path in the world,
the meditation house, and
a view of Bantry Bay from the garden.

Our next stop will be an eight-day vipassana retreat in Wapserveen, Holland, from Aug 23 to 30 followed by weekend metta retreats in two other Dutch towns, Groningen and Nijmegan, another ten-day vipassana retreat at Passaddhi in Ireland, and more retreats in Czech Republic (Prague and Plana) and Belgium before we return to Inward Path, Penang, on Nov 16.

Then there will be a nine-day retreat in Kuching (Sarawak) from Nov 21 to Nov 29.

Dec 24 to Dec 30 we have an invitation to lead a seven-day metta retreat at the Mudita Buddhist Society in Klang (Selangor).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

LOOKING for this book?

We received some new stock from the sponsor but not many.
Check the link by click on the book below.

The Buddha's Teachings on Effort
by Sayadaw U Pandita
transciption by Sayalay Daw Bhadda Manika
translated and edited by Bhikkhu Vivekananda
edited by Dr Penny Gray
ISBN 983-3512-26-7
Size: 5.5” x 8.25”
Pages: 148 pages
Weight: 240gsm

“Effort is a vital theme in the Buddha’s teachings on mental development. Many passages from the Tipitaka account for this. In a masterly manner the Venerable Sayadaw U Panditabhivamsa of Myanmar has knit the relevant teachings into an inspiring presentation drawn from the Buddhist canon. The Venerable Sayadaw is an exemplary manifestation of someone who consistently applies heroic effort. Even at the age of eighty he is still travelling far and wide throughout the year to teach insight meditation and spread the Dhamma. This book is based on a series of talks given during an insight meditation retreat conducted at the Panditarama Vipassana Meditation Centre, Lumbini, Nepal, in February 2000. The talks were delivered to a mixed audience of Western meditators and a larger group of Newari Buddhists from the Kathmandu valley, some of whom would be direct descendants of the Sakyamuni clan of the Buddha. The talks contain reference to both groups as the Venerable Sayadaw endeavours to encourage the individual meditators in their practice.”
from FOREWORD by Bhikkhu Vivekananda

Thursday, August 6, 2009



A Guide Book on Vipassana Meditation
with an Audio Guide to the practice on

Compact Disc (CD)
in MP3 format (AF405) -->


ISBN 978-983-3512-67-6
Size: 5.5” x 8.25”
Pages: 136 pages

As a guidebook it offers a framework for the teachings based on the source material: The Four Establishments of Mindfulness. It includes sections on mindfulness of the body, being aware of feelings, orientating to the sense doors, the supportive practice of loving-kindness, how to report the practice in the daily interview, difficulties facing meditators and how to work with them, as well as advice on continuing the practice at home.


Venerable Pannyavaro is an Australian Buddhist monk who has devoted his life to the meditational aspects of the Buddha's teachings. During his meditation training he practiced under several meditation masters in Sri Lanka and Burma including Venerable Sayadaw U Janaka of Chanmyay Meditation Centre, Rangoon, who is the foremost disciple of the renowned Burmese meditation master, the late Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw.

Pannyavaro was involved in the beginnings of a number of the very early Buddhist communities in Australia. He later received full ordination at Wat Borvornivet in Bangkok under Venerable Phra Nyanasamvarva, the Sangha Raja of Thailand.

For the past twenty-five years, he has from time to time studied and practiced meditation in most of the major Theravada Buddhist countries, including long periods of intensive practise of Satipatthana-Vipassana meditation at the Mahasi Sayadaw centres in Burma.

As a Western meditation teacher, Ven. Pannyavaro naturally empathizes with the concerns and needs of meditators in their own culture. His long training and life experience combine to bring a practical in-depth approach to the teaching of insight (vipassana)meditation in contemporary life.

Pannyavaro is the resident teacher with the Buddha Dharma Education Association at its Centre at Surry Hills in Sydney and gives retreats from time to time at the Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre, Medlow Bath.


Bodhi Tree Forest Monastery and Retreat Centre was founded by Venerable Pannyavaro Mahathero. He is better known as the founder and webmaster of

Venerable Pannyavaro plans to develop a meditation community to serve both lay and monastic practitioners on ninety-five acres of beautiful land at Tullera five minutes from Lismore in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, Australia. This land has been purchased as a sanctuary and hermitage — known as Bodhi Tree Forest Monastery and Retreat Centre. Site works and development are being planned.

Supportive conditions for ordained and lay practitioners to undertake long term intensive meditation practice are hard to find in western countries. To assist people to penetrate the heart of the Buddha's teaching The Buddha Dharma Education Association is planning a 'hermitage' area in addition to a large meditation hall and an individual accommodation area at Bodhi Tree.


THE ART OF ATTENTION: Meditating for Insight
ISBN 983-9439-19-7 (IJ021/98/05)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How Teachings of the Buddha are preserved over 2500 years (Part 1)

This painting depicted Ven. Ananda in the First Buddhist Council
(Please do not mistake the person sitting there in the painting as Buddha. That person was Ven. Ananda)
(Picture Courtesy of Wikimedia)
* Another strange thing I found in the painting was how come there was a scroll on his lap. There was no writing of any sort about Buddhist scriptures in the First Buddhist Council.

Recently, I came across a chapter in ‘The Fundamentals of Buddhism’ by Sayadaw U Silananda about Divisions of the Buddha’s Teachings and the Buddhist Council. Out of my interest, I looked up some additional readings from the internet about the efforts on how the Buddha’s disciples managed to preserve His teachings until today.

In the book, it mentioned that the First Buddhist Council was held at Rajagaha 3 months after the Buddha passed away, led by Venerable Mahakassapa. The main purpose of the Council was to review what the Enlightened One taught in 45 years. Then it was the start of gathering of the scriptures of Buddhism into an enormous collection. The collection was called (in Sanskrit) ‘Tripitaka’ or (in Pali) ‘Tipitaka’, which gives the meaning of ‘three baskets’ because it is organized into three major sections. It also is called the "Pali Canon" because it is preserved in a language called Pali.

Elaborated from the chapter, Venerable Mahakassapa felt that there was a need to prioritise the review the monastic discipline at that time because monks could abandon the rules of discipline and do as they liked after Buddha left them. So the first agenda in the Council was to review the rules of discipline for monk and nuns. Since Venerable Upali was known to have comprehensive knowledge on the rules of the monastic order, he was in-charged for delivering the rules out to the 500 monks. Only those rules, upon agreeable by the 500 arahats, were accepted by the Council. Then these rules became the Vinaya Pitaka (Discipline Section), one of the three baskets or sections of Buddha’s core teachings (Tipitaka). Vinaya Pitaka is a collection of texts regarding the rules of discipline and conduct for monks and nuns. The Vinaya-pitaka is not only a directory of monastic rules but it also explains the circumstances that caused the Buddha to make many of the rules.

Mahakassapa also asked Venerable Ananda, who Buddha’s closest companion when Buddha was still alive to recall from his memory on all the Buddha’s sermons as he was known for his prodigious memory. He began all his recitation with the word ‘Thus I have heard’, similar to what you can find these words in the beginning of any Buddhist scriptures or suttas. Again, the collection of suttas recited had to be agreed and approved by the Council for their accuracy, before being adopted. This section or basket of the Tipitaka is called the Sutta Section (Sutra in Sanskrit) or ‘Sutta Pitaka’ and it contains thousands of sermons and discourses delivered by the Buddha and a few of his disciples. This ‘basket’ is further subdivided into five nikayas, or collections (More of these are explained the chapter mentioned)

Up till the Third Buddhist Council which was held about 250 BCE to clarify Buddhist doctrine and to desist the spreading of heterodoxy to the Buddha’s teachings, the final version entire Pali Canon of the Tipitaka was adopted, which the inclusion of the third basket, Abhidhamma Pitaka (Abhidharma in Sankrit) or ‘Section of Special Teachings’. This section of Special Teachings mentioned contains commentaries and analyses of the suttas. The Abhidhamma Pitaka explores the psychological and spiritual phenomena described in the suttas and provides a theoretical foundation for understanding them.

Where did the Abhidhamma-pitaka come from? According to legend, the Buddha spent the first few days after his enlightenment formulating the contents of the third basket. Seven years later he preached the teachings of the third section to devas (gods). The only human who heard these teachings was his disciple Venerable Shariputta, who passed the teachings on to other monks. These teachings were preserved by chanting and memory, as were the suttas and the rules of discipline.

However, all the Buddha teachings were not put into any form of writing and they have been passed down generations to generations through words by mouth, until the fourth Buddhist Council. We will explore more on this in the next part. Please feel free to comment on the post too.

Samurai Beng, the Dhamma warrior