Donald K. Swearer is Professor and Chair of Religion at Swarthmore College He has written Buddhism and Society tn South-east Asia For the Sake of the World and with Patrick Henry, Spirit of Buddhism and Christian Monasticism.
This work brings together in a single volume the translated essays of Buddhadäsa Bhikku, the major interpreter of Theravada. Buddhism in Southeast Asia.
This is an excellent exposition of present day Theravada Buddhism by a native Thai master. A book of this nature is quite rare to find, especially coming from a living scholar and practitioner. Buddhadäsa’s interpretation is innovative and thus controversial to traditionalists but it deals frankly with contemporary issues of the world, such as wars, social unrest and ecology. The topic is as old as Buddhism - the focus on the non-self (an atman) doctrine, but its contemporary orientation and analysis is excellent in intruding new approaches and slants relative to the issues at hand.” - Kenneth K. Inada, State University of New York at Buffalo. “It makes Buddhism accessible to a Western audience by presenting translation of an appealing cross-section of essays from one of Thailand’s leading monks. Buddhad Asia’s strength, attested to by his enormous lay following, is that his essays are designed for a general audience and many are directed specifically at Westerners. This and the fluidity of the translation make the difficult and ‘exotic’ topic of Theravada Buddhism accessible to a Western audience.” Christine E. Gray. Temple University
any hands have contributed to the completion of this volume. In the first instance I would like to thank Sulak Sivaraksa for encouraging my interest in Bhikkhu Buddhadasa over to past two decades, and for his permission to include versions of Democratic Socialism, A Dictatorial Dammed Socialism, A Socialism Capable of Benefitting the World, and The Value of Morality in this volume. Originally they were published in Bangkok in Thai and English editions (Dammed Socialism). Bangkok: Thai Inter-religious Commission for Development 2529/ 1986). The translation of these essays was undertaken jointly by myself, Susan Miller, M.A., of Seattle and Chiangmai, and Dr. Pataraporn Sirikanchana, Department of Philosophy, Thammasat Univeristy. Dr. Sirikanchana also translated Till the World Is with Peace. Para Depvedi worked with the editor on the translation of the Value of Morality.
I also wish to thank the Westminster Press for permission to reprint revised versions of To ward the Truth hand book for Human kina Everyday Language and Dharma Language, No Religion!, and Nathan Exists in Samara. These essays were published in 1969 under the title, Toward the Truth, which has been out of print for over a decade. Contributors toward the translation of these essays were Bhikkhu Nagasena, Bhikkhu Puñña, Thawee Siribunruang, and Rod Bucknell (formerly Bhikkhu Ariyananda). The latter also translated Looking Within. The title essay, Me-and-Mine, was translated by Phra Geoff DeGraff who also kindly read and made comments on the entire manuscript. Baw Tananone and Herbert Greater translated Conditioned Genesis and Buddhism in Brief respectively.
I take full responsibility for the final versions of the essays as they appear in this voulme. In some cases they have been significantly revised, and in others the text has been reduced or portions have been eliminated primarily to avoid excessive repetition.
I would like to thank Bhikkhu Buddhad fish for several opportunities to discuss Buddhadhamma with him at his forest monastery in southern Thailand, and for his insightful and original interpretations of the teachings of the Buddha. Finally, I want to express my gratitude to Nancy, Susan and Stephen for their understanding of my abiding interest in Thai Buddhism.
I am grateful to Kenneth Inada, editor of the series in which this volume appears, Lois Patton, Editor-In-Chief of the State University of New York Press, and Marilyn Simmered for their help and support.
This volume fills a major gap in our understanding of contemporary Thai Buddhism and Theravada Buddhist thought in general. Scholarly attention in the West has been captivated more by Mahayana and Santayana forms of Buddhism than by Theravada. Several diverse reasons may account for this imbalance: (1) Western scholars have found the philosophical traditions of Mahayana and Santayana of more compelling intellectual interest; (2) the religion-cultural traditions of Mahayana and Santayana have loomed larger in Western experience and imagination; (3) Zen and Tibetan Buddhist apologists and expatriates have had a direct and significant impact on the West since 1950; (4) Westerners have assumed Theravada thought to be dominated by the dry scholasticism of the Abhidhamma and Buddhaghosa’s commentaries from the fifth century C.E. to the present; (5) contemporary American scholars of Southeast Asian Theravada have tended to be more interested in history of religions and anthropological issues than doctrine and philosophy; (6) Westerners personally attracted to Theravada Buddhism have been practioners of meditation rather than students of Theravada thought.
My own interests in Buddhism are quite diverse, reflecting, on the one hand, more than twenty years of research and teaching within the liberal arts college context and, on the other, a first-hand involvement with Southeast Asian Buddhism from the time I was instructor at Bangkok Christian College from 1957 to 1960. As a consequence of this experience in Thailand, my research has been focused on Theravada Buddhism, especially its Thai expressions, and has included work in the areas of text, history, and a variety of forms of religious thought and practice, principally meditation.
I was first introduced to Buddhadäsa Bhikkhu in 1960 when a group of monks at Wat Mahadhãtu monastery in Bangkok gave me a small collection of his books. Fascinated by Buddhadasa’s provocative interpretation of Buddhadhamma I was able seven years later to visit his forest monastery, Wat Suan Mokkhabalärama (The Garden for Empowering Liberation) located near Chaiya, Surat Thani Province, in southern Thailand. For several days I had the privilege of long walks with acariya (teacher) I,’ the title by which he is most often addressed, and hours of uninterrupted discussion about matters of Buddhist thought and practice. This experience both reinforced my interest in Buddhadasa’s explication of Buddhist doctrine and attracted me to him as an exemplar of the Buddhist monastic life. Since that time I have continued to study his writings and have revisited Wat Suan Mokkhahalárama, most recently in 1986.
Born on May 21, 1906, as Mugnai Panic, Buddhadasa was raised in Chaiya, the son of a local merchant. He was ordained a monk at age 21, rapidly gaining a reputation for intellectual prowess, interest in meditation, and ability as a teacher. Although he pursued formal monastic studies for several years in Bangkok, he returned to Chary to establish a meditation and study center first in an abandoned monastery in the forest near his home, later moving the monastery to its present location on a low hill overlooking the sea.
Suan Mokh, as the Buddhadasa center is usually called, combines the ideals of early monastic Buddhism with modern methods of propagating Buddhadhamma. The fifty to sixty resident monks who live in adequate but simple wooden huts, can be seen before sunrise walking the rural roads on their pii4apaia (alms) rounds. Much of their time is spent in meditation and study rather than in the merit-making rituals more typically performed by Thai monks. Contrasting with its simple monastic dwellings, Suan Mokh has a modern “spiritual theater” with interior walls covered by lively murals exemplifying many of the fundamental ideals found in Buddhadasa’s writings. The theater also serves as a center for media presentations of slides and films. Buddha As lectures several times a week, although— weather permitting—he prefers to speak to groups outdoors in the midst of a natural setting rather than in the spiritual theater.
Suan Mokh has changed since my first visit twenty years ago. Sounds of trucks hurtling along the new superhighway near the monastery’s entrance disturb its quiet, serene environment. There are now several dwellings to accommodate the thousands of pilgrims and guests who visit Suan MOkh annually. A special meditation retreat during the first ten days of every month has been established for the increasing numbers of foreign visitors, and a new meditation center known as the International Dhamma Hermitage has recently been opened. .More than 1000 trainees a year receive instruction from Acariya Buddhadasa and Acariya Bodhi, the assistant abbot. The long term effects of all of these changes remain uncertain.
Buddhadasa’s influence extends beyond the confines of Suan Mokh, however. The small collection of his writings given to me thirty years ago has expanded to the largest corpus of thought ever published by a single Theravada thinker in the entire history of the tradition. For years to come students of Thai Buddhism will be summarizing, distilling, and interpreting Buddhadäsa’s contribution to Buddhist thought.
Within the Thai context, Buddhadasa offers a fascinating contrast to Vajirañãiavarorasa (1902— 1921), usually referred to as Vajirañãa, who as the head of the Thai sang a in the twentieth century, essentially shaped the form and content of monastic education.2 As an administrator Vajirañäia regularized monastic education nationwide, establishing a standard curriculum in Buddhist history, doctrine and practice, nine levels of Pali studies, and a graded sequence of examinations. He also founded the first monastic university, Mabãmakuta, at the royal monastery, Wat Bovornives, and was instrumental in organizing a nationwide public educational system using the network of Buddhist monasteries throughout the country3 As a scholar, Vajirañãia was a brilliant student of Pail language and literature, producing dictionaries and numerous doctrinal treatises like the Nawikovada, still the standard text for newly ordained novices.4 Many of Vajiranaa’s writings, such as the Navakovada, resemble topical compendia filled with references to Pãli texts and commentaries, especially those of Buddhaghosa.
Buddhaghosa, a noted south Indian scholar of the fifth century CE. Has overshadowed the development of Theravada Buddhist thought throughout the history of the tradition much as Thomas Aquinas has dominated Roman Catholic thought from the thirteenth century to the contemporary period. According to legend, Buddhaghosa traveled to Sri Lanka to study the Pali and Sinhalese commentaries only to find them so corrupt that he produced his own.5 subsequently, his Pãli commentaries became the literary and doctrinal standard of the tradition not only in Sri Lanka but throughout Theravada Southeast Asia. His commentarial introduction to the legendary lives of the Buddha (jtaka) in the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Pall canon constructs a mythic, narrative account of the Buddha’s career from his pie-history. to his death (parinibbana), and his Visuddhimagga has been taken as the standard Theravãda interpretation of Buddhist thought and practice.6
In several respects Buddhadasa stands in polar opposition to such normative figures of Theravada Buddhism as Buddhaghosa, the Great Commentator of the fifth century, and Varjiranaa, the Great Reformer of Thai Buddhism in the early twentieth century. He has eschewed administrative roles within the Thai sang a hierarchy, opting to live and teach in the environment of a forest monastery far from the centers of monastic and political power.’ His treatises on Buddhadhamma contrast decidedly with the scholastic style of Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga and the catechetical format of Vajirañãtia’s Navakopada. Through both personal example and the manner of his teaching and writing, it can be said that Buddha’s seeks to promote a “luminal” environment which deviates from the rigid educational program and the hierarchical institutional structure of the Thai monastic order.7 Although this environment has been uniquely shaped by Buddhadasa’s vision, it shar1es a common ground with the “forest tradition” (ãraññavasi) of Theravada Buddhism which has been revitalized in Thailand in recent years.8 Buddhadãsa, furthermore, has influenced the founder of Santi Asoka, a radical sectarian movement outside the Thai national sang a organization. Santi Asoka has been outspoken in its criticism of most conventional Thai Buddhist practice, and has called for a return to a “primitive” or “authentic” Buddhism.9 While Buddha as a has also been critical of many customary Thai Buddhist practices and has created his own center for teaching and practice in southern Thailand, he is more tolerant and less exclusivist than Para Bodhiraksa, the founder of Santi Asoka.°
Buddhadasa’s forest monastery and his unique interpretation of Buddhist doctrine not only stands in opposition to such classical Theravada interpreters as Buddhaghosa and such notable Thai monastic leaders as Vajiranaia, but much that goes under the rubric of village or popular Buddhism.” Buddha as a sees the preoccupation of popular Buddhist practice with meritmaking (Thai: iham pun) to gain material benefits as a refutation of the central Buddhist teaching of non-attachment. He contends that the figure of the Buddha has become, in effect, a wish-fulfilling deity, instead of the teacher who’s dhamma provides a “raft” to gain the “further shore” (nubbin). He challenges both monks and laity to a more serious study and practice of the Buddha’s path to enlightenment rather than reducing it into a magical means of self-aggrandizement.’2
Like many original thinkers, Buddhadãsa has been criticized from several fronts: by meditation practioners for the prolixity and theoretical cast of his writing, by traditional Abhidhamma philosophers for the unorthodoxy of his thought, and by political activists for his social idealism.’3 In particular, because he has chosen to teach from a forest hermitage removed from modern urban life, Buddhadgsa has beeh misperceived as one who epitomizes an otherworldly Buddhism or as one who advocates a practice aiming at personal rather than social transformation. Such an evaluation distorts BuddhadAsa’s teaching and life’s work. To be sure, he emphasizes the importance of right understanding and individual practice, but Suan MOkh, itself, represents an ideal community (or “communitas”) rather than an individualistic retreat from the world. There, monks and laity, men and women, young and elderly as well as animals and plants live together in harmonious balance. Buddhadãsa teaches under trees, surrounded by attentive listeners, sleeping dogs and pecking chickens. The simplicity of Suan MOkh represents an ideal balance (pakati), not a return to primitiveness but a state of nature (dhammajãti) in which all sentient beings recognizing their common humanity act out of mutual concern and’ respect for the good of the whole.
The essays translated in this book form a small but central part of the total—and still to be completed—Buddhadasa corpus. At this point more than fifty hardcover volumes of his collected works have been printed. Since the bulk of this corpus represents transcriptions of talks and various lecture series, translation involves of necessity a certain amount of editing and interpretation. The translator faces the challenge of taking a spoken, extemporaneous and often repetitive and idiomatic discourse out of context and rendering it into an intelligible, reasonably consistent whole. Out of consideration for the reader much of the repetition has been eliminated, although I have felt it desirable to retain some of the seeming redundancy in order to provide a better sense of Buddhadasa’s style, and also his tendency to return constantly to certain basic themes such as flown-attachment (cilia Wang), emptiness (sonata), and normalcy (pakati). In terms of content, these essays introduce the reader to many of these major themes at the heart of Buddha as interpretation of Buddhadhamma.
The essays translated in this volume cover a period of twenty-five to thirty years from the mid-l 950s to the early 1 980s, the most productive period in Buddhadasa’s life. Most of the essays were lectures given at Wat Suan MOkh in Chaiya. The Value of Morality (Thai, Sin Kha Sintham), for example, was one of Buddhadasa’s regular Friday talks given to a general audience in 1976. Me-and-Mine (Tua-Ku-Khoñg-Ku) was a series of Rains Retreat lectures in 1961. Others were talks given to a particular group. Democratic Socialism (Prachathipatai Baep Sankhom-niyom), for instance, was a 1973 lecture at Suan Môkh to a visiting group of social workers; Looking Within (Kanmong Sing Tang Buang Nai Dan Nat) was a talk given in 1961 for the Department of Buddhist Studies at Chulalongkorn University. Handbook for Humankind (Khumü’ Manut), printed in English under the title, Handbook for Mankin first distributed in 1958 by the Organization for the Promotion of Buddhism, has been reprinted numerous times and translated into several languages. Buddhadäsa has characterized the book as one of his best non-technical introductions to Buddhadhamma.
The essays have not been arranged primarily in a specific chronological order but according to the editor’s sense of the flow or development of BuddhadAsa’s ideas. Roughly speaking, however, each of the three sections of the volume represents a decade. The essays in Part I from the 1 950s and early 1960s were selected as representative of Buddhadasa’s “foundational” thought. The essays in Part II from the decade of the 1960s are somewhat more focused or topical, and also reflect influences on Buddhadsa frorn his study of other religions, especially Christianity and Zen.’4 The decade of the 1970s, especially from 1973 through 1976, was a volatile political period in Thailand with several government changes, attempted coups d ‘teat, conflict between left and right, and fear of communist insurgency.’5 The essays in Part III reflect influence of these events on BuddhadAsa’s thought.
Buddhadãsa’s “system” of thought, if we may call it that, is not conceived as a scheme to explain all that is worth explaining. Rather, it reflects his continuous effort to interpret the dhamma and make it relevant to particular times, places, persons, and events. It begins with such basic personal questions as “Who am I?”“How can I live a meaningful life?”“What is true freedom?” In BuddhadAsa’s terminology some of these themes are embodied in such Thai terms as cit-Wang (a freed mind, e.g., non-attachment), and rua-ku-khong-kzi (me-and-mine, e.g., attachment to self), or the Pie terminology of annatto (not-self), sati (mindful awareness), and upekkha (equanimity).
In Buddhadhsa’s view, however, questions about the greatest good of the individual necessarily lead to concerns about the world and the natural environment of which the individual is a part. It is in this connection that Buddhadasa explores such seminal ideas as dhammajati (nature) and pace samuppãda (conditioned genesis or interdependent co-arising), and demystifies the notion of emptiness or the void suflflata).
To talk about one’s experience necessarily means to objectify it. In Buddha dãsa’s view, when language points toward the truth it functions as a medium for understanding things the way they really are. Words more commonly obfuscate the truth, however, by becoming an object of attachment, or, in effect, a substitite reality. BuddhadAsa addresses the problem of language and its relationship to experience and understanding in terms of a distinction between ordinary language and truth language (Thai, phasa khon/phasa tham). When language functions dhammically it points us toward the truth, or orients us toward things as they really are.
Buddhadasa does not see the quest for personal fulfillment or enlightenment as one of isolated individuals pursuing their own greatest good. We not only live in a shared natural environment, but are part of communities embedded in the natural order of things. Everything is necessarily interrelated (paicca samuppada). Consequently, the good of the individual parts is predicated on the good of the whole and vice versa. In BuddhadAsa’s view such a state is both the moral (sila-dhamma) and normative (pakati) condition of things. Practically speaking it means that a just, equitable, peaceful, and happy society balances the good of the individual and the good of the whole in a “fellowship of restraint” (sahgczma-n(yama).
These Ply and Thai terms which are so central to Buddhadasa’s thought and to the essays in this volume represent different facets and dimensions of the same dammed reality. Consequently, they are essentially interrelated to each other in the following manner:
The individual is not-self (anatta). As such s/he is part of an ongoing, conditioning process (pa(icca-samuppada) devoid of absolute self-nature (sunnatci), a process to which words can only point (bhJsa-dhamma). This process functions according to universal principles we call nature (dhammajJti). It is the true (saccadhamma), normative (pakati), and moral (siIa-dhamma) condition of thin gs. To be a not-self (anatta) therefore, is to be void (suhñatä) of self; an4 hence, to be part of the normal (pakati), interdependent co-arising matrix pa (ice-samuppada) of all things, and to live according to the natural (dhàmmafati) moral law (siladhamma) in fellowship voluntarily restrained (dhammika sañgama-nzyama) by other-regarding concerns.
BuddhadAsa’s social and political theory, especially his interpretation of dhammic socialism, cannot be divorced from his underlying Buddhistic preoccupation with the overcoming of attachment to self, to “me-and mine.” In the most profound sense, both personal and social well-being stem from transforming self-attachment and self-love to selflessness and love of others. A dhammic socialist society is a community based on a fundamental sense of the equality of all beings. Such a view does not deny the existence of differences among individuals, but all, regardless of position and status, recognize their place within the economy of the whole. Thus, a person of wealth should not be a “capitalist” who hoards for his own pleasure, but a reships, one whose high position enables him to be a benefactor to laborers, workers, and common folk.
Buddhadgsa’s vision of the good and just society coincides with his view of an original state of nature or an original human condition, one of mutual interdependence, harmony and balance. By its very being this state nature is selfless—individuals are not attached to self for its own sake. But with the loss of this state of innocence, individuals are subject, to the bondage of attachment (upadana) and unquenchable thirst (Tahiti). Consequently, sentient beings need to find ways to return to or restore this condition of mutual interdependence and harmony, love and respect. On the personal level, the attainment of wisdom through the methods of awareness (sati), continuous attention (sampajañiia), and focused concentration (samädhi) serve to break through the conditions of greed, ignorance and defilement (kilesa), while on the social level those in positions of power promote economic and political policies which after meeting basic physical needs promote a balanced development in which matters of spirit (citta) assume their rightful dominance.
Buddhadasa’s notion of a truly human community is, in his view, a universal vision shared by all religions. This socialist society is one governed by love (metal). Lengthen language of Buddhist millenarian expectations, it is the age of the Buddha Maître. Buddhadasa’s teachings regarding Buddhist socialism cannot be consigned to an other worldly mechanism, however. His vision serves as a critique of both capitalism and communism and provides the basic principles for a political philosophy with the potential to help guide Buddhist Thailand to a more just and equitable social, political and economic order.
The above synopsis of Buddhadãsa’s interpretation of Buddhadhamma provides a gist of the core of his thought, and a brief introduction to the essays collected in this volume. Although the essays are divided into three sections, the major ideas discussed above appear throughout. Consequently, the three parts of the book are to be seen not as sorting boxes representing sharp distinctions in BuddhadAsa’s interpretation of the dhamma, but as prisms revealing a spectrum of implications springing from the basic unity of his thought. Non-attachment remains, in my estimation, the fundamental theme of Buddhadãsa’s thought; on to Logically it points toward emptiness; ethically it leads in the direction of hammock socialism. For this reason I have selected non-attachment (citta wang), not-self (anatta), emptiness (sufiltata), and shamanic socialism (sañgama-niyania) as the key indicators of the unity and variety in Buddhadasa’s thought.
Part 1. From Non-Attachment to Not-Self This section includes three relatively comprehensive attempts by Bhikkhu BuddhadAsa to summarize Buddhadhamma. Taken together they not only introduce many of the major concepts of Theravada Buddhism and Buddhadãsa’s interpretation of them, but also provide a sense of the range and development of his thought. Buddhism in Brief asserts the uniqueness of the anatta or not-self idea in opposition to views which affirm “the existence of abiding or lasting realities.” The essay locates the heart of the human problem in attachment, and the solution to his problem in overcoming attachment:
the essential principle of Buddhism is this: through the studious search for the truth within one’s body, through learning the true nature of things and persons, and through avoiding the attachment that produces suffering, one may extinguish suffering in mind and in heart. Regard for the law of not-self produces a mind that is freed and at ease.
Handbook for Humankind and Toward the Truth are more substantial essays. At the beginning of Handbook Buddhadsa defines Buddhism as:
an organized practical understanding of the true nature of things, or what is what.
He then discusses the “true nature of things” in terms of such basic TheravAda teachings as the Four Noble Truths, the three characteristics of existence, the principle of conditioned genesis or interdependent co-arising (practice samuppada), and the five aggregates of existence (khandha). His discussion of the threefold training (stia, samadhi,panña) focuses on the development of insight (vipassana) through the practice of mindfulness (sati). He advocates the importance of “natural insight,” arguing that highly structured and organized meditation techniques may lead to a spiritual pride which becomes merely another form of attachment. While deep concentration may become an obstacle to real understanding, natural insight produces a calm, steady mind, “one so fit for work that when applied to insight practice it gains right understanding in regard to the entire world.”
BuddhadAsa does delineate “insight by organized training” in terms of five stages of vipassan and nine stages in the perfection of knowledge, but his preference for “insight by the nature method” points to his impatience with excessive philosophizing and his criticism of those who would confine Buddhism to a narrow set of teachings. Although Buddhadsa concludes the essay with a discussion of emancipation from the world in terms of the Four Stages of Noble Persons (ariya) from Stream Enterer to arahanfy the technical precision of his analysis is never an end in itself. Rather, it serves the simple assertion that nibbana as the ultimate goal of Buddhism Is the “complete elimination of the defilements which are the cause of all unsatisfactory mental states”—nibbäna here being the condition of freedom from bondage and suffering which results from seeing the nature of the condition of all things. It demands neither a highly technical form of practice nor a sophisticated philosophical system. Thus, in conclusion, Buddhadasa observes that while Handbook for Humankind is a brief account of the whole of Buddhadhamma from beginning to end, its practical, rather than its theoretical principles, are the most crucial: “If we do not practice Buddhadhamma, we shall only know about it and shall lack true insight. It rests with us to practice introspection, observe and understand our imperfections, and try to root them out completely.”
Although Toward the Truth is set up as an exposition of the word, dhamma, it covers much the same ground as Handbook for Humankind. Buddhadãsa begins with a “theoretical” discussion of the nature of things in terms of such categories as mundane (lokiya) and transmundane (lokuttara), conditioned (sañkhatadhamma), and unconditioned (asahkhata-dhamma). In this essay, also, he emphasizes that Buddhadhamma can only be penetrated when one has overcome attachment to objects of sense; or—like a young chick breaking out of its shell— when one has shattered the conditional reality covering the truth. Buddhadasã then focuses on meditation, linking it to serving others through love and compassion (mettã/karua) as a means of harboring no feeling of attachment and attaining Buddhadhamma.
In the tight of Buddhadhsa’s consistent emphasis on meditation or practice (paipa1ti-dht2mma) over theorizing, it seems appropriate to end this section with Looking Within. Here Buddhadäsa focuses on the distinction between “inner” and “outer” exploration in terms of the dichotomy between “everyday language’ and “truth language.” This theme, as we shall see in the following essays, becomes a dominant motif in Buddhadasa’s interpretation of Buddhadhamma.
Part II. From Not-Self to Emptiness This section contains essays suggestive of Buddhadãsa’s more radical departure from the normative Theravãda doctrine represented by Buddhaghosa and Varjirañhtla. Buddhadäsa considers Me-and-Mine (Tua-Ku-Khong-Kü) from which this book takes its title, to be a crucial theme in the development of his own thought. In one sense, tua-ka-khong-kU represents a reformulation of BuddhadAsa’s persistent emphasis on non-attachment as the key to Buddhadhamma, in another sense, however, I see it as a transition to a closely related idea: suñ flatã or emptiness. Non-attachment, not-self, and emptiness are for Buddhadãsa, variations on a single theme.
Me-and-Mine, the longest essay included in this volume, illustrates in its entirety one of Buddhadhsa’s major hermeneutical techniques: to provoke insight into the deeper meaning of Buddhadhamma by substituting unconventional for conventional terms. Tua-ku-khong-ku-—the gut sense of me and mine—is a crude and unconventional way of referring to the self. Buddhadasa uses this collection of terms (which [have hyphenated to suggest that they reenforce a single meaning) to provoke insight into the central teaching of not-self (anatta); that is to say, Buddhadhsa uses tua-ku-khong-ku to provide a means of understanding its opposite, namely, annatã or not-self.
Buddhadasa uses the term, tua-ku-khong-kti, as a means of grappling not only with the meaning of anatta (not-self), but also with the formula of the Four Noble Truths. Me-and-Mine begins with a discussion of some of the misconceptions one brings to a study of Buddhism, e.g., that Buddhism is passive and otherworldly, but quickly moves to an exposition of the Four Noble Truths in terms of me-and-mine (tua-ku-khong-kti). Paralleling the structure of this basic formula, the essay is divided into four sections: me-and-mine, the cause of me-and-mine, the cessation of me-and-mine, and the path to the cessation of me-and-mine. Many basic Theravada terms receive extensive treatment within the context of this framwork. Particularly noteworthy are Buddhadasa’s rather technical analyses of Jrammatla (sense object) in relationship to the cause of me-and-mine, and sahiyojana (fetter) in relation to the path to the cessation of me-and-mine.
What is Conditioned Genesis? which appeared in 1971, ten years later than Me- and-Mine, represents another major watershed in the development of Buddhadäsa’s thought. It is at the heart of the Theravada understanding of the nature of reality7, and connects with his previous discussions of non-attachment and meditation, not- self and the Four Noble Truths. As this essay makes abundantly clear, however, his appreciation of the true meaning of paicca samuppda also involves a biting attack on what he considers to be Buddhaghosa’s essentialism. Furthermore, it connects with his profound appreciation of the meaning of suññatã (emptiness), his innovative interpretations of dhammajati (nature) and pakati (normative, normal, normalcy), and with his later lectures on social ethics.
The three essays which follow What Is Conditioned Genesis? illustrate the creativity and originality of Buddhadãsa’s interpretation of Buddhadhamma. Everyday Language and Dhamma Language explores a wide variety of terms ranging from nibbana and kamma to ordinary words like mother and father from a surface, conventional perspective, and from a truth or dhammic perspective. While a wise or discerning person considers both perspectives, the true nature of things can be understood only by penetrating to the dhammic level of the term in question. That deeper meaning, in Buddhadsa’s view, is the “utter absence of ‘I-ness.’” For example stop in ordinary language means “not moving” or “not stirring,” but as indicated in the Buddha’s conversation with Angulimala, the Buddha used stopping to mean becoming empty of self: “If there is no self, what is there to go running about?”
This distinction between two types of language implies two levels of understanding, and two levels of truth. Buddhadgsa, at this point, sounds more like Nagarjuna than conventional Theravãda thought which distinguishes between two forms of language in terms of sulia and abhidhamma.. Indeed, some Thai and Sri Lankan Theravgda Buddhists have expressed dismay at what they take to be the Mahgyänist slant in this and other of Buddhadasa’s interpretations of Buddhadhamma. They point to his extensive use of the term, sunnata (emptiness), and are particularly perplexed by the final essay in this section, Nibbãna Exists in Sayonara nubbin and sayonara exist together in this fathom-long body of ours. If we have not yet attainted perfect nibbna, we continually oscillate back and forth, sometimes in nibbäna, sometimes in sensor. Whenever we take our sensory perceptions and concoct the sense of me-and-mine, we are in sanitaria But when we train our mind thoroughly it is like the image of “one hand clapping”.
To his Theravada critics. Buddhadäsa’s specific references to Zen, as in the above quote, are problematic, as is his essay on No Religion which may seem to evoke the Zen image of “Kill the Buddha!” By the phrase, “No Religion,” Buddhadsa means that all religions are similar in two fundamental senses: (1) the truth to which such terms as Dhamma, Goa Tao, point is the same ontological structure which can be labeled nature (dhammajati) or the way things are normally (pakati); (2) all religions teach an ethic of selflessness to which the key is non-attachment or non-possessiveness.
Part III. From Emptiness to Dammed Socialism The last group of essays represents a small portion of BuddhadAsa’s work dealing with the social, political, and economic significance of Buddhadhamma. The heart of this section is focused on Buddhadasa’s interpretation of dhammika sañgama-niyama which we translate as “Buddhist socialism.” The first essay addresses the more general subject of Buddhist ethics (sila-dhamma) even though it was published somewhat Later than his talks on Buddhist socialism. The section concludes with an essay on Buddhism and peace, a fitting way to end this book in the light of Buddhadäsa’s overriding and ongoing concern for the practical consequences of Buddhadhamma.
In The Value of Morality Buddhadasa lays out the theoretical groundwork for his social ethics. In his view morality (sila-dhamma) refers to the normal (pakati) condition of things, a state of harmony, balance and equilibrium where everyone realizes his or her own good in relationship to the good of the whole. Thus, for Buddhadãsa, morality (siladhamma) is to be understood in realtionship to the normal (pakati) or the ideal, natural state of things (dhammajäti). In practical terms, such a natural, balanced state requires a lifestyle of moderation and simplicity. As Buddhadãsa puts it, instead of the motto, “Eat well, live well,” we must hold to the view of,
Eat and live only sufficiently. A life-style of moderation will, then, Lead to a state of balanced happiness (pakaii-sukha).
Although several major themes dominate Buddhadsa’s thought, in particular those related to non-attachment or “freed heart and mind” (Thai, cit wang), not-seLf (anattA), and emptiness (suiluiatA), the contexts in which he lives and works —Suan Môkh, Thailand, and the contemporary world—exert a strong influence on the issues he addresses. During the period of political change and debate in Thailand from the mid to late I 970s, Buddhadasa devoted a considerable amount of attention to Dhammic socialism. The essays included in this section suggest that BuddhadAsa’s Dhammic socialism can be interpreted in terms of three fundamental principles: the good of the whole, restraint and generosity, respect and loving-kindness.
The ethical principle of the good of the whole is based in the Theraveda ontology or woridview of conditioned genesis or interdependent co-arising (paicca samuppada). Nothing exists in isolation; everything co-exists interdependently as part of a larger whole from whatever level it may be viewed—molecular, human, social or cosmic:
The entire universe is a socialist system. Countless numbers of stars in the sky exist together in a socialist system. Because they follow a socialist system they can survive. Our small universe with its sun and planets including the earth is a socialist system. Consequently, they do not collide.
To act in terms of the good of the whole requires restraint of egoistic drives, on the One hand, and active generosity on the other. Buddhadasa looks to the Buddha and the monastic order but also to an idealized and simplified past as examples of these virtues:
Our ancestors. . . taught that we should do what we can to promote the co-existence of all beings... All living beings are able to exist to the degree that they form a society, a mutually beneficial cooperative. This is the handiwork of nature. If nature lacked this character we would all die. Those who know this principle hold fast to it. Even their rice paddies are planted for the benefit of wild animals who feed on it, as well as for their own consumption. They grow as much as they can to share with all forms of living beings.
The shared universe we inhabit calls for us to live in accordance with the prince- pies of respect for others and the active pursuit of their wellbeing, i.e., loving- kindness (metal). From this perspective BuddhadAsa becomes a peace advocate in ‘the broadest sense of that term, condemning war and all forms of violence toward human beings and the environment.
In the final essay Buddhadasa outlines nine qualities of a peacemaker.’9 together they constitute a view of what it means to be a moral person. They also bring us full circle in our attempt to delineate BuddhadAsa’s interpretation of Buddhadhamma through his own writings. Just as Me-and-Mine can be seen as Buddhadasa’s interpretation of the Four Noble Truths, and Democratic Socialism as a unique social-ethical rendering of interdependent co-arising, being a peacemaker becomes a way of following out the Noble Eightfold Path:
Only we can bring about world peace by performing the dhamma according to the Noble Eightfold Path. World peace will, then, come about as a consequence of moral persons, and of just and righteous governments.
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