For the Welfare of Many
In the hour
before dawn on Wednesday, 19th October 1994, our esteemed Founding-President
and Patron, Venerable Nyanaponika Mahathera. passed away peacefully at his
residence, the Forest Hermitage in the Udawattakele Reserve, Kandy. His death
took place on the last day of the Vassa, the annual rains retreat observed by
Buddhist monks since the days of the Buddha, in the quiet of the forest he
loved so much, before the screeching of the fruit bats and the chatter of the
monkeys could herald the approach of dawn. Three months earlier Ven.
Nyanaponika had celebrated his 93rd birthday, frail but still in remarkably
good health for his advanced age. In late August, however, the wheel of aging
accelerated rapidly, ushering in a combination of illnesses that ended two
months later in his demise.
The passing away of
Ven. Nyanaponika marks the end of an era, both in the annals of the Western
encounter with Buddhism and in the history of the BPS. Among Western Buddhists
he was perhaps the last survivor of what might be called the "second
generation" of pioneers, comprising those who forged their initial
contacts with the Dhamma during the 1920s and 1930s. Ordained as a pupil of the
illustrious German elder Ven. Nyanatiloka Mahathera in 1936, Ven. Nyanaponika
was for decades the seniormost Theravada Buddhist monk of Western origin in
the world. On the day of his death he had just completed his 57th rains as a
member of the Sangha. He was also one of the four "Great Mentors,
Ornaments of the Teaching" (maha mahopadhyaya sasanasobhana) in the
Amarapura Nikaya, the monastic fraternity to which he belonged.
Through his own
writings and in his editorship of the BPS, Ven. Nyanaponika played a momentous
role in shaping the expression of Theravada Buddhism appropriate for the latter
half of the twentieth century. Gifted with keen intelligence, a profound grasp
of the Dhamma, and extraordinary sensitivity to the needs of his fellow human
beings, he endeavored both in his personal writings and in his publication
policy to articulate a vision of the Buddha's teachings that underscored its
crucial relevance to humanity in the present age. The early decades of the
century provided the background to this vision. In his own mature years he had
witnessed two world wars (one involving the mass extermination of his own
ancestral people, the European Jews), countless small-scale social conflicts,
and the breakdown of existential meaning in the lives of so many thoughtful,
well-intentioned people. Against this background he constantly sought to
emphasize, from different angles, those aspects of the Buddha's teachings that
speak most directly and meaningfully to men and women earnestly searching for
clear spiritual direction. His writings, though sparse and compact in expression,
constitute a veritable "Guide for the Perplexed" in this age of confusion
when it often seems that the only alternative to rampant materialism and
religious fundamentalism is the bewildering potpourri of cults and fads that
make up the spiritual supermarket.
Ven. Nyanaponika did
not pursue his aim of sharing the Dhamma by sweetening and diluting the
original doctrine in order to make it more palatable. His interpretations of
the Dhamma always flowed from a clear personal discernment of its innermost
essence—the Four Noble Truths and the three characteristics—and were built
upon a solid respect for the commentarial tradition that has come down from
the ancient elders. He based his writings, not only upon sound and thorough
scholarship, but also upon a penetrative understanding of the human condition
rooted in a deep sympathy with his fellow human beings. Hence his books and
essays go far beyond the repetition of stale, stereotyped formulations of the
teaching. They refract the Dhamma through the prism of a highly astute Western
mind shaped by the best qualities of the European intellectual heritage,
presenting it in a way intended to teach, to transform, and to edify his
readers at the very core of their being. His appreciation of the Buddha's
teachings was as comprehensive as it was profound, as vitally direct as it was
systematic and orderly. In his view the Dhamma offers a sublime ethics that can
provide a psychological basis for morality in place of a theological one. He
found the teaching fully acceptable to the most critical demands of rational
thought, yet capable of providing sustenance for the nourishment of our
emotional life, so badly impoverished by scientific objectivism and economic
consumerism. Above all, he stressed the importance of self-knowledge and inner
self-transformation and the role of Buddhist meditation as a means for knowing,
developing, and liberating the mind. His book The Heart of Buddhist Meditation,
translated into seven languages, still remains today, after 33 years, the
clearest, most thorough, and most convincing contemporary account of the
Buddha's way of mindfulness.
expression of Ven. Nyanaponika's endeavour to share the Dhamma with others was
his commitment to the work of the BPS, which he helped to found and served as
its first Secretary, first President, and longtime Editor. From the inception
of the BPS in 1958, Ven. Nyanaponika dedicated himself completely to the work
of the Society. During the first three years of its life, in fact, the Society
was quartered entirely in his study at the Forest Hermitage. During this period
he himself personally shouldered a large portion of the routine paperwork,
though he soon divested himself of this when Richard Abeyasekera assumed the
position of General Secretary, leaving him more time to attend to the
As Editor, he
carefully examined every manuscript to ensure that BPS publications accurately
reflect the spirit of the original Buddhist teachings. It was above all his
sagacious guidance, his overflowing compassion, and his dedication to the
Dhamma that transformed the BPS into a major Buddhist publisher bringing the
teachings of the Buddha to over eighty countries around the world. Even after
his retirement from the editorship (in 1984) and from the presidency (in
1988), as our Patron he continued to take an active interest in the Society's
development. We always apprised him of any important decision or line of policy
that required consideration, and he was always ready to offer his wise advice.
On a personal note I
must state that with the passing of Ven. Nyanaponika I have lost my life's
closest friend, my teacher and spiritual guide. The last ten years, during
which I had the privilege to live with him and to look after him at the Forest
Hermitage, were indeed a blessing hard to encounter in the round of rebirths.
Yet, although we shall miss his wise and loving presence, his subtle humour and
sympathetic counsel, it is not sorrow and grief that we should feel at his
parting, but rather a serene joy over a noble character that embodied the most
worthy human traits, and immense gratitude for a life supremely well lived for
the welfare and happiness of many. By the vast merits of his life's
achievements, may Ven. Nyanaponika be able to pursue his aspiration unhindered
in future existences and may he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.
booklet in honour of Ven. Nyanaponika will be issued with the next BPS mailing.
Last Wishes of Ven. Nyanaponika
Mahathera (found in his
My thoughts of
• To all my kind supporters and
friends, for the help and encouragement given to me throughout my life as a monk:
May their lives be happy and lead them closer to their aspiration and to the
final attainment of Nibbana
• To all at the Buddhist Publication
Society, for their dedicated cooperation. May the merit they have acquired by
devotedly helping to give the gift of Dhamma to the world bring them happiness
here and hereafter and be an aid to them on the path to deliverance and its
May the work of the
Buddhist Publication Society continue and grow for a long time to come, and
bestow the precious gift of the Dhamma on Sri Lanka and on many other lands!
May the Buddha-Sasana
in its purity be preserved for long in a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka and
may the inner strength of the Sasana grow in this country, to which I feel a
deep sense of gratitude.
With thoughts of
Literature of Ceylon. G.P.
Malalasekera. This is a reprint of an old classic by the doyen of
Sri Lanka's Oriental scholars, originally issued in 1928 as a Prize Publication
by the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. In a little more
than 300 pages, the author admirably surveys Sri Lanka's rich legacy of Pali
Buddhist literature, from the earliest period down to the present century. More
than a mere catalogue of works and authors, this book is a gracefully written
history of Sri Lankan Buddhism as reflected in its Pali literary heritage.
Softback: 350 pages
140 mm x 214 mm
U.S. $15.00; SL Rs. 350
Order No. BP 610S
Buddhism. Nyanatiloka Mahathera. A Wheel publication comprising four lectures
by the eminent German Buddhist scholar-monk: on the Four Noble Truths, kamma
and rebirth, dependent origination, and meditation. 88 pages; U.S. $3.00; SL
Rs. 75; Order No. Wh 3941396.
Disruption in Society. Elizabeth J. Harris. In this Wheel booklet the author
makes a penetrative examination of the Early Buddhist texts to uncover their
approach to the problem of violence in society and their suggestions for
resolving the moral dilemmas raised by violence in our own time. 64 pages; U.S.
$2.50; SL Rs. 60; Order No. Wh 392J393.
The Vision of
Dhamma. Nyanaponika Thera. This outstanding onevolume collection of our late
Co-founder's writings from the Wheel and Bodhi Leaves series offers one of the
most mature and authoritative contemporary expressions of Theravada Buddhism.
Contains: The Worn-Out Skin; The Power of Mindfulness; The Roots of Good &
Evil; Anatta 8c Nibbana; and more. "The writings of Nyanaponika Thera are
a `Guide for the Perplexed' in the last quarter of this century" (Erich
Fromm). Not for sale in U.S.A.
Softback: 368 pages
140 mm x 214 mm
U.S. $16.00; SL Rs. 350
Order No. BP 4145 A
Glossary of Buddhist Technical Terms. Bhikkhu Nanamoli. This compilation by the
well-known British scholar-monk contains close to 3,000 entries of Pali
philosophical and psychological terms, as well as words and word-meanings not
in the PTS Dictionary: with meanings, textual references, enumerations, etc.
Softback: 176 pages
124 mm x 182 mm
U.S. $8.00; SL Rs. 250
Order No. BP 608S
Back in Print
The Progress of
Insight. Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw. In this booklet the great Burmese meditation
master charts the entire "way of mindfulness" up to its culmination.
His treatise emphasizes the advanced stages of the path, showing in great
clarity their distinctive features as they become manifest in the course of
actual meditative practice.
Softback: 64 pages
124 mm x 182 mm
U.S. $3.00; SL Rs. 75
Order No. BP 504S The
Path: Way to the End of Suffering. Bhikkhu Bodhi. A concise, clear, and
thorough account of the Buddha's Eightfold Path. The author explains each path
factor from the angle of both theory and practice, with a final chapter showing
how the eight factors function in unison to bring realization of the Buddhist
Softback: 144 pages
124 mm x 182 mm
U.S. $5.00 ; SL Rs. 150
Order No. BP 1055
Meditation & Depth Psychology. Douglas M. Burns. This Wheel publication
forms a practical introduction to Theravada Buddhist meditation, written from
a psychological orientation. 72 pages;
U.S. $3.00; SL Rs. 75; Order No. Wh 88/89.
Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Ma jjhima Nikaya.
Original translation by Bhikkhu Nanamoli; revised and edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi.
This book offers a complete translation of the Majjhima Nikaya, a collection of
152 discourses of the Buddha, many of them among the most important in the Pali
Canon. The book is produced as a high-quality hardback, 3 volumes in one, with
notes, glossary, indexes. Available by March 1995; advance orders are accepted.
For sale in Asia only. (In the Americas, Europe, and Australia available
through Wisdom Publications, Boston.)
160 mm x 235 mm
U.S. $50.00; SL Rs. 2,400
Discourse on Causation: The Mahanidana Suttanta & Its Commentaries.
Translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Reprint; planned for early 1995.
Contemplations of Insight. Ven. Matara Sri Nanarama Mahathera. This is a
profound examination of the "seven contemplations" of classical
Buddhism and of the actual way they are experienced in the course of
meditation. By one of Sri Lanka's fore= most meditation masters of recent
times. Planned for mid-1995.
of the Buddha. Ven. Nyanaponika Thera & Hellmuth Hecker. This volume will
combine all past issues of our Wheel titles in the "Lives of the
Disciples" series. Planned for mid-1995. A Short History of Buddhism in
Myanmar. Roger Bischoff. For the Wheel series, 1995.
Ceremonies and Rituals of Sri Lanka. A.G.S.
Kariyawasam. For the Wheel series, 1995.
Living Experience. Lily de Silva. For the Wheel series, 1995.
book Being Nobody, Going Nowhere by Ayya Khema, priced at Rs. 300 in the last
newsletter, had to be repriced at Rs. 350. The former price was the result of a
Notes and News
Project. On 21st July, the BPS simultaneously celebrated three joyful events.
One was the 93rd birthday of our Patron, Ven: Nyanaponika Mahathera. The
second, scheduled to coincide with this event, was the release of the BPS
edition of The Vision of Dhamma (see Publications column). And the third was
the launching of the BPS's Dhamma Dana Project, a scheme to send gift copies of
our major book publications to Buddhist centres, viharas, and libraries around
the world. On the morning of 21st July, the BPS staff and friends gathered at
the Forest Hermitage to wish Ven. Nyanaponika a happy birthday. Our printer,
Mr. M.W. Karunaratne, arrived from Colombo to present the Mahathera with the
first copies of the. book, a beautifully produced felicitation volume to
honour one of the great exponents of the Dhamma in our time. Appropriately for
this occasion, we began the Dhamma dana scheme with The Vision of Dhamma,
sending copies to some 120 Buddhist centres, both locally and overseas. (Note:
After the death of Ven. Nyanaponika, the BPS has decided to rename the Dhamma
Dana Project after him as the Nyanaponika Dhamma Dana Project.).
BPS Maligawa Display.
On 7th October the BPS formally opened a small book display unit at the Dalada
Maligawa, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy. The purpose of the
display is to make known to the many visitors to the Maligawa, who include a
large number of foreign tourists, the existence of our own Society just one
kilometer further down alongside the Kandy Lake. In a short talk to the Kandyan
dignitaries and well-wishers who assembled for the occasion, Ven. Bhikkhu
Bodhi pointed out that the Maligawa and the BPS share a common goal in the
preservation and protection of the Buddha Sasana. He explained that the Maligawa
is concerned primarily with the preservation of the Buddha's "form
body," as represented by the precious Tooth Relic, while the BPS is
dedicated to preserving the Buddha's "Dhamma body," the collection
of his teachings.
We wish to remind our subscriber members to renew their BPS subscriptions for
1995. Owing to the increasing costs of printing and paper, as well as other
overheads, we are reluctantly compelled to increase our local subscription
Rs. 200 per year for
Rs. 100 per year for
Rs. 2,000 for life
subscription rates are still sufficient to cover production and mailing costs,
these will remain the same:
U.S. $15 (or £10) for
sea mail delivery;
U.S. $25 (or £15) for
air mail delivery;
U.S. $300 (or £200)
for life membership (air mail only). Bound Volumes. As the cost of reprints
included in our latest bound volumes of The Wheel and Bodhi Leaves has
increased substantially, we are no longer able to maintain the uniform selling
price in respect of these volumes as given in our 1993-94 catalogue. This
factor, coupled with the increase in other overheads, requires us to fix the
prices of the bound volumes on an individual basis.
Please Help Us.
Although our Society has long been a leading publisher in the field of
Theravada Buddhism, we feel that enormous scope remains for increasing our
membership and for expanding our range of distribution. We appeal to our
present members, both in Sri Lanka and abroad: please make a sincere and
methodical effort to encourage friends and acquaintances with an interest in
Buddhism to join our Society and to purchase our publications. We will be happy
to supply enrolment forms to those who wish to solicit memberships; folders,
flyers, and catalogues to those who want to stimulate an interest in our books.
We also appeal to Buddhist centres and viharas overseas: please carry a stock
of our folders and catalogues that can be easily made available to your members
and visitors. The success of our work depends largely on maintaining an active,
dedicated body of associate members and in increasing the sales of our books.
Without your wholehearted cooperation in this endeavour we will not be able to
reach potential readers who at present know little or nothing about the BPS. If
you can think of other ways in which you might be able to help us, please let
us know your ideas.
Code. The Buddhist Monastic Code is a handsomely produced book of 570 pages
containing a translation of the Patimokkha, the training rules of the Buddhist
monk, with detailed explanations of all the rules by the American bhikkhu Ven.
Thanissaro. A free copy of this book-the product of over five years of
painstaking scholarship—will be sent to any inquirer upon request; a donation
to cover the cost of postage and packing for the book, which weighs almost 2
Ibs. with wrapping, would be appreciated. To obtain a copy write to: Buddhist
Monastic Code, Metta Forest Monastery, P.O. Box 1409, Valley Center, CA 92082,
Guidelines to Sutta Study
In the last
instalment of this series of guidelines on the Kandaraka Sutta (MN 51) we saw
that the first major sphere of training undertaken by the bhikkhu is restraint
by morality (silasanvara). This phase of training is expressed in the sutta by
the undertaking of principles of conduct that enjoin both the abstinence from
unworthy modes of behaviour and the active exercise of the opposing virtues.
The Kandaraka Sutta (and many other suttas of this type) do not refer to the
Patimokkha—the more technical codification of monastic rules—but to the basic
guidelines to right conduct, both ethical and ascetic in character, that the
Buddha has prescribed for those who have renounced the household life in quest of
the highest goal.
The attainment of the
highest goal, however, cannot be achieved by moral restraint alone, which
focuses primarily upon external behaviour. The final goal of liberation
requires not only purification of conduct but, building upon this, the
purification of mind and the arrival at right understanding, and this involves
the direct endeavour to discipline the mind and penetrate the true nature of
things by insight. The next three steps in the gradual training mark a transition
from moral purity to purification of mind. They are intended to internalize, by
way of a more vigilant awareness of one's motives and mental patterns, the
process of purification already started with restraint by morality. In
exercising this transitional role they help to prepare the mind for the
attainment of concentration (samadhisampada), the next major division of the
In the version of the
gradual training described in the Kandaraka Sutta, these three steps are:
(ii) restraint of the
sense faculties (indriyasamvara)
(iii) mindfulness and
full awareness (sati-sampajanna).
The virtue of
contentment is exemplified in the sutta by a monk who is content simply with
robes to protect his body and with sufficient almsfood to sustain his life.
The texts compare such a monk to a bird that is at liberty to fly wherever it
wishes taking its two wings as its only burden. Just so, equipped with only his
robes and almsbowl, the bhikkhu dwells free from the encumbrance of possessions,
yet in his freedom enjoying complete contentment.
step—"next" more in the sense of expository sequence than of
practice—is restraint of the sense faculties, also called guarding the doors
of the sense faculties (indriyesu guttadvarata). The relevant passage of the
On seeing a form
with the eye, he does not grasp its signs and its features. Since, if he left
the eye faculty unguarded, evil unwholesome states of covetousness and grief
might invade him, he practises the way of its restraint, he guards the eye
faculty, he undertakes the restraint of the eye faculty.
The same pattern is
repeated for the other senses and their objects, including the mind faculty and
its objective sphere of purely mental phenomena.
Normally, we take our
sensory experience for granted, assuming that the shifting patterns of objects
we encounter through the senses are extending us an open invitation to enjoy
them freely with no harmful consequences to be faced. Yet the Buddha shows
repeatedly in his discourses that this thirst for sensual pleasure is one of
the most powerful expressions of craving, the root cause of suffering.
Responses to sensory contacts governed by "covetousness and grief,"
that is, by lust for the pleasant and aversion towards the unpleasant, forge
invisible links in the chain that ties us to the cycle of birth and death, and
hence heap up more suffering.
The ability to
withstand the lure of sense objects is therefore a step in the opposite
direction: towards dispassion and relinquishment (viraga, patinissagga), the
harbingers of liberation. The Buddha indicates the key to the practice of sense
restraint by the phrase "he does not grasp its signs and its
features" (na nimittaggahi hoti na anubyanjanaggahi). The problem of
attachment to sense pleasures is not to be resolved by avoiding all sensory
contact, but by putting a stop to "grasping," to our habitual
tendency to seize upon sense impressions and weave them into our subjective
fantasies and personal dramas. Thus what must ultimately be restrained is not
so much the sense organs themselves, which are by nature only instruments of
perception, as the mind in its responses to the data of cognition. Instead of
seizing upon the attractive and repulsive features of things, the disciple in
training learns to view his variegated sense impressions with a sublime
transitional step between virtue and concentration is the practice of
mindfulness and full awareness:
He becomes one who
acts in full awareness when going forward and returning; when looking ahead and
looking away; when flexing and extending the limbs; when wearing the robes and
carrying the cloak and bowl; when eating and drinking; when defecating and
urinating; when walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, talking,
and keeping silent.
As the passage
indicates, what is meant by mindfulness and full awareness in this stage of
training is not the intensive development of a specific subject of meditation,
but the application of mindfulness and full awareness to the common activities
of daily life. For one training for the highest goal, the round of routine
activities is not to be dismissed as an annoying distraction but to be utilized
as a basis for cultivation of the mind. The performance of these activities with
mindfulness helps us to avoid carelessness and to understand their purpose and
real nature. Even when engaged in such banal activities as eating and dressing,
defecating and urinating, by performing them mindfully in the light of clear
awareness, we are able to transform them into fodder nurturing the growth of
concentration and insight.
Please remember to
renew your subscription for 1995
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