Saturday, August 22, 2015

Finding Alaung Daw Kathapa (part 2)

     It is difficult to remember the details of my first residence at Alaung Daw Kathapa after the eventful first few days, since I stayed there five times in all, and the events of the various years blend together, so it is hard to remember with certainty in which year an event occurred. It is very likely, though, that my issues with poachers and woodcutters in the “national park” began almost immediately.
     As in many so-called “third world” countries, so in Burma, villages located near national parks and wildlife preserves tend to have an economy partly based upon poaching and woodcutting. The villages around Alaung Daw Kathapa are no exception, which was always a challenge for me, being a person who for most of his life has loved trees and furry and scaly animals more than humans. One time during my early years there a group of park rangers and soldiers came to pay their respects on their way into the park to catch poachers, or at least to discourage them a little. I took heart at this and began enthusiastically telling their leader how they could easily catch at least a dozen poachers in one day: all they had to do was wait by the main trail one or two days before a festival; the poachers come in at that time to sell their meat. As I was saying this I noticed the group leader was grinning and fidgeting in embarrassment, and it became pretty obvious that he had no intention of catching poachers. This became even more obvious when, at the end of my harangue, he replied, “But they’re hunting for food.” This was true, but it was food to sell, as a business, not food to keep their kids from going hungry. So of course, when the law enforcement officers are on the side of the poachers the case is approximately hopeless. I think at least they make some effort to protect the few tigers remaining in the park, and to prevent fishermen from dumping poison into the creek to kill the fish. At least that’s something.
     Some of the hunters and fishermen were no happier to see me than I was to see them. One morning when I was walking along the creek toward the village I saw a guy carrying a large fish trap. As soon as he saw me he stared around in sudden panic and literally leapt into chest-deep water to avoid meeting me. On another occasion a fisherman coming up the trail with his fishing pole took one look at me and turned on his heel and ran. As I continued past the spot where I had seen him I could hear him, hiding behind a bush and whisperingly calling to his dog, which was looking around for its master. Another time I heard some kind of explosion coming from that same spot; as I approached I saw men scattering in all directions to avoid me, either diving into the bushes or swimming to the other side of the creek, with stunned and dying fish floating all over the surface of the water. They were using military explosives as a fishing device. I was told that hunters and fishermen believe that if they see a monk the karma imposed upon them by the meeting may prevent them from catching anything that day, but I figure it’s more a case of them seeing me as a kind of Dharma police, and having some childish idea that so long as they don’t get caught, they won’t have to face any religious consequences. But I suppose it doesn’t matter. We challenged each other, and, from a dharmic point of view at least, it is good to be challenged. 
     Sometimes during alms round I would receive some kind of stringy red meat in my bowl. At first I thought maybe it was water buffalo, but eventually I was told that it was barking deer from the “wildlife refuge.” So after learning what it was I refused to accept it into my bowl, telling the villagers that it is not right to kill animals in a wildlife refuge. This was too abstract or unfamiliar of a concept for them, however, so they chose to interpret it to mean that I was a vegetarian. (Of course, a Buddhist shouldn’t kill animals anywhere, but that point of ethics was so radical as to be totally unrealistic.) So in addition to no longer receiving poached venison, I also stopped receiving such grotesque delicacies as monitor lizard and frog eggs. So that was no great loss. I could go on and on about the killing ways of the villagers, and their disregard of basic ethics until they were too old to have the energy to get into trouble, but I may as well drop the issue and move on to something else. 
     There is one case of mild delusion I experienced during my first hot season there which involves a hunter, and which I might as well mention before dropping the subject of hunters entirely. Sometimes I would hear a man talking up on the hill above the south side of the box canyon. Also sometimes I would hear explosions like gunshots—not big gunshots, but something like a .22 caliber pistol, almost more of a pop that a bang. Anyway, I told one of my village supporters about it, and he told me that a hunter sometimes stayed up there. He considered this situation to be inappropriate, so he informed me that he would persuade the hunter to go elsewhere. After that I didn’t hear the man’s voice anymore, but I continued to hear the bangs, and sometimes would hear small projectiles pattering through the forest foliage immediately afterward. I tried to figure out what he was doing up there: The explosions weren’t loud enough to be ordinary rifle shots, so I thought maybe he had an old muzzle-loader flintlock (like some villagers owned), and due to economy was loading it with just enough powder to launch a bullet at a bird or whatever small game he was after. Sometimes after the bang I would hear the projectile flying in my direction; and I was tempted a few times to shout at the guy to be careful where he was aiming. Maybe I did shout once or twice. When the village supporter asked me if the hunter was still around I said yes, which had my friend surprised and confused. 
     Finally I somehow realized what the “gunshots” really were. There is a kind of strangler vine in the forest, which I assume is the very same as the proverbial māluvā creeper mentioned in the Pali texts: it starts out as a soft, downy little shoot, apparently totally harmless, and then grows up the trunk of a tree; eventually it grows so large that it overwhelms the tree, covering it, and it becomes so heavy that it can break the branches off or even pull the whole tree down, destroying it. There were a few trees near the cave that had been wrecked by these things. In the suttas the māluvā is compared to sensual pleasures, or more specifically to the soft, downy arm of a young woman, which eventually can overwhelm and destroy an ascetic. Anyway, the creeper has big seed pods made of a hard, woody material; and during the hot, dry weather they dry out and twist slightly, causing the whole pod to come under greater and greater strain until the whole thing finally bursts open explosively, shooting disc-shaped seeds for fifty meters or more. Those are what I was hearing shooting through the leaves of the trees. One advantage of living in rural Burma, with a semi-ancient, traditional culture and a natural environment very similar to that of the ancient Ganges Valley, is that one can learn more through experience what the suttas are talking about. I don’t remember the suttas mentioning the māluvā pods exploding, though.    
     I love and am fascinated by nature, and have been this way since I was a small child, and living at Alaung Daw Kathapa gave me many opportunities for observing mysteries of nature. For example, I shared my cave with many kinds of wasp, including several species of potter wasp. There is a kind of metallic green wasp that parasitizes potter wasp pots, so the potter wasps all have some gimmick for concealing their pots. Some of them simply cover the pots with mud, causing them to look like amorphous blobs rather than wasp pots; but the metallic green ones usually spot these and break into them. Others add strange stalagmites of mud to their finished pots which make them look like coral. There’s at least one kind which builds a group of connected pots and then covers them all with a clay dome, either to reduce the smell of the contents penetrating the walls and encouraging the parasitic ones, or to discourage them by causing them to find nothing on the other side of the first mud wall they chew through. But my favorite was a small, delicate-looking potter wasp that didn’t bother to build extra fortifications onto its pots. It left them plainly pot-shaped. What it did, though, was to go out and find black and white pigments and paint an abstract black-and-white camo pattern onto its pots to break up the visible outline. Not only does it fascinate me that they have evolved this behavior (they’re born with it, as potter wasps are quite solitary and have no friends or teachers), but also that they have no idea whatsoever why they are doing it. Even assuming that a wasp has some dim consciousness of what it is doing, it almost certainly doesn’t have the slightest idea of why it is going through the trouble of building domes or coral antlers or painting abstract designs. It probably has no concept at all of the dangers of metallic green parasitic wasps in the area. But the thing is, though, of course, naturally, that we humans tend to be the same way, if to a less absolute degree. Most women never bother to understand why they consider babies to be so adorable, and most men never bother to understand why a young woman’s shapely bosom is so tantalizingly attractive. Or why they care what other people think. Or why they stick their tongue out when they do something difficult. Or why they close their eyes before they sneeze. Or why they like the smell of baking bread. Et cetera. 
     It was also during my first or second year that I saw something of the pagan cult of Amei Gyi, the Great Mother. Once when I was in Her sacred grove I noticed a woman from Kuzeit village who came to the main shrine platform (the same place where I would stop to take my bowl out of its bag and cover both shoulders with my upper robe before entering the village for alms). She took an empty clay pot there, went down to the creek and filled it with water, picked a few leafy twigs and stuck them in the pot, offered the pot at the shrine, and then proceeded to ask the Great Mother for a long list of favors or blessings, including the health of her family, her husband’s economic success, and her son’s success in his school exams. It seemed to me that the nice lady was essentially trying to swindle the goddess: what kind of equitable trade was that? Some picked leaves from her own grove in exchange for that list? Some people have strange ideas about religion, and about life in general. Some Christians have similar ideas, believing that just making a brief confession before one dies is enough to ensure the reward of an eternity in Heaven.
     On another occasion I saw a different lady with the old village guy who was part-time priest to the goddess (he mainly made his living in some other way, and just moonlighted as a divine intermediary). The little ceremony was interesting: This lady offered a whole, plucked, boiled rooster to the goddess, which the “priest” offered on her behalf, chanting/muttering something I didn’t understand. At one point he pulled the tongue out of the rooster, chanted some more, and then reinserted it and chanted some more. I would guess that most Europeans two thousand years ago did similar things. Even Socrates, on his deathbed, asked a friend to sacrifice a rooster for him. 
     So…to make a long story even longer, I lived in Belly Fall Cave, practicing in a predominantly head-oriented manner (as was my custom in those days rather more than it is now), until the monsoon began. I planned to go back to the blazing hot wastelands of Taungpulu Kyauk Hsin Tawya, in central Burma, after the rain started and cooled things down to a simmer. So, around the second half of May, the first big rain came down signaling that it was time for me to leave. 
     The next morning I found the creek, which was usually less than knee deep where I crossed to reach Pwingah village, chest deep, opaque brown, and flowing fast. I slowly, carefully waded through the flood to reach the villagers waiting to offer food, with my bowl and upper robe held up out of the water, but evidently was not careful enough, and took a bad step onto a bad rock and tore a piece of skin more than a centimeter across off the bottom of a big toe. I was still able to walk, but it was obviously a bit of a handicap when it was time to leave the area, especially since it was a 32-mile hike to the nearest functional car road. I moved into Hsine Teh village, home of the friendly, curious sayadaw that I had met my first day there. Also, the unscholarly U Nanissara had already been there for some time, and had made himself at home. One image of that monastery which remains with me is a heap of antique palm leaf manuscripts in a little shrine building with no front wall, rotting and scattered all over the floor. Burma is like that.
     When the villagers of Hsine Teh discovered that I was lamed, they got together and tried to rent an elephant from a nearby logging camp, so I could ride it. The arrangements were apparently not going according to plan, however, and no elephant was forthcoming, so I was getting ready to make the trip on foot, lame or not. But the day before U Nanissara and I were to set out, I saw, coming up the dirt track to the monastery, an elephant. He looked huge at the time, although I was told later that he was only thirteen years old and not yet full grown. His name was Chit San Win, which means “Special Bright Love.” We, including the elephant and his driver, spent one last day at the village monastery, where the sayadaw was driven to distraction by the fact that the elephant was capable of eating entire banana trees and succeeded in eating one or two of them at the monastery. 
     In those days, before the new highway to India cut through the area, elephants were used to bring groceries and other cargo into the valley from the outside; so Chit San Win had a kind of luggage rack fitted to his back, a wooden contraption that was fixed up with cushions as a howdah or saddle for U Nanissara and me. When we took leave of the good villagers the elephant’s driver commanded him to kneel, so we could climb into the saddle easily. We were required to use the back of the elephant’s neck as a step, which bothered me. I remember saying “gadaw gadaw” to him as I stepped up—it means “I pay respect to you,” and is what Burmese people say before touching another person’s head. Even barbers say it before they start cutting someone’s hair. The Burmese, if they heard it, probably thought I was joking. 
     At the beginning of the monsoon season the wild mangos are ripe, and as we passed through the forest Chit San Win, being an elephant with a one-track mind oriented toward food, would stop at every wild mango tree we passed to eat the fallen mangos. The driver would scream at him and beat him and shoot him in the rump with a slingshot to get him going again. I figured the elephant was doing most of the work, and didn’t begrudge him an occasional mango break, but the driver saw things differently. So I requested that the two Burmese guys accompanying us on foot collect mangos whenever we passed a wild mango tree, and I would feed them to Chit San Win whenever we would stop. In the early evening we arrived at a wooden shelter where we were to spend the night, and the elephant came up alongside the elevated platform so we could dismount without him having to kneel. After we got off Chit San Win curled the end of his trunk into a kind of fist and started thumping the wooden floor of the platform with it. U Nanissara turned to me and said, “He’s asking for his mangos,” which I realized was exactly what he was doing. We had stopped, so it was mango time for him. Elephants like mangos. 
     Actually, elephants are remarkably intelligent, much smarter than dogs. They understand many different commands, and know their left from their right. If they didn’t think about food all the time they might make something of themselves in this world. 
     One other thing that flourishes in the forest at the beginning of the monsoon is horseflies. They are attracted to moisture, which means that I, the profusely sweating Westerner among Burmese people adapted to hot, humid weather, became a horsefly magnet. My sweat-wiping rag was in constant motion throughout much of that trip, as I tried to keep the little bastards off of me and away from my limited supply of blood. One time I noticed a horsefly on top of Chit San Win’s head; he noticed it too, and the tip of his trunk came up like a big thumb and squished it. An elephant’s skin is very sensitive, so he could feel that the squished horsefly was still up there, and so the trunk came up one more time and flicked it off. 
     The next day we arrive at a big village called Ya-Gyi, a corruption of Ywa-Gyi, which means “big village.” That is where the Nayaka Sayadaw, sort of the Buddhist bishop of the area, had his monastery. That is also where Chit San Win and his driver took their leave of us. I wanted to say goodbye to the elephant, the first one I had ever ridden, and maybe get him a bunch of bananas or something as a parting gift, but the driver was eager to leave, and took off quickly, and so I missed the chance to convey my gratitude to either of them. But, regret is always an unskilful mental state. 
     Being an exotic, white-skinned foreign monk in a remote area I was a big sensation in the village, so a crowd of people came to pay their respects. We all met in the main Dhamma hall with the venerable Nayaka Sayadaw acting as host. Before long he ordered a novice to fetch a plate and set it in front of me. Then he advised the laypeople to donate money on my behalf. I started scowling and shaking my head, not liking the idea at all; U Nanissara knew the score, so he advised the Sayadaw that I didn’t like his method. The Sayadaw came up to me and in an undertone urged me to be patient, as the money was for my boat fare. Then, more loudly, he advised the simple devotees to pray for Nibbana as they offered the money, which was sufficient for me to stand up abruptly and stalk out of the Dhamma hall. I suggested to my companions that we leave as soon as possible. At least I didn’t accuse the venerable Sayadaw/bishop of shamelessness in front of his congregation, though I came close to it. I was a semi-fanatical hardass in those days.
     The second leg of the journey was sixteen miles of dirt road, unmanageable by cars, since a bridge had washed out, but doable by bullock carts. I had never ridden a bullock cart before either; and upon riding one I realized why riding one is against the rules of monastic discipline for a healthy monk: unlike horses, bullocks start slowing down as soon as they stop being beaten. A sixteen-mile trip involves a seven-hour-long beating for two bullocks. I don’t remember their names.
     Our next stop was the town of Kani, on the Chindwin River. We were told of a good monastery with very respectable monks situated on the outskirts of the town, so that was our destination. But just before arriving we passed through a large cemetery with a huge wooden pavilion, which looked too good to pass up, so I decided to spend the night there. Before long a guy from town showed up, reportedly a local political officer, who strenuously, repeatedly invited me to spend the night at his house, somehow feeling that it would be better than staying at the cemetery (and I assume easier there to keep an eye on me). But my heart was set on the cemetery, and that’s where I stayed. It was kind of jungly, with a cremation ground and lots of human bones lying around—in other words, really nice for a semi-fanatical hardass monk. I stayed at that cemetery every time I went to Kani after that, too. Once I found the front half of a human skull lying face up on the road about a hundred yards from the cemetery. As cemeteries go, it’s hard to beat.
     The next day we boarded a sampan headed downriver to Monywa, which city we had left three months previously. And thus we reentered “civilization,” such as it is. I returned to the cave at Alaung Daw Kathapa four more times, over the next four years, spending a total of almost two years of my life there, including one very challenging rains retreat. I also contracted falciparum malaria every time I went there, coming down with malarial fever at least once each time (seven times total). But that’s a totally different story, which I may or may not ever tell. 



  1. Dear Bhante, are u ever encountered dangerous wild animals living in the forests? I read that it was some kind of test for a forest monk.

    1. The most dangerous animal in the forest is the anopheles mosquito, and I've encountered lots of those. I've also encountered lots of snakes, scorpions, and giant centipedes. But with regard to BIG dangerous animals, the closest I've come is big cat tracks. Actually, I've been told that wild boars are more dangerous than tigers, if only because there are lots more of them. But I've never seen a wild boar either. The biggest wild animals I can remember seeing in Burma were deer.

  2. Bhante, do you believe people who claim that they can see or even communicate with spirits ( beings from other realms). Do you have any experience to share while living in the wilderness?

    1. I am willing to accept that communication with "spirits" is possible, although I doubt that most people who believe they communicate with them really do. I suppose a lot of it is the result of hysterical dissociation, or just silliness.

      When I was very young and hadn't learned yet to be afraid or to disbelieve, I apparently was able to see at least one spirit. As an adult I can remember only one case in which I might possibly have seen such a being, although we didn't communicate. I just saw a young Burmese man run extremely quickly and extremely silently just a few paces in front of me, and then disappear. But it could have been a hallucination or distorted perception or some such also. It's hard to say.

  3. I heard about a case where there were two colleagues who are able to see the same spirit in my office. The form perceived them were different. One see "her" in semi-decomposed state and another see "her" as rather normal ghost lady in early 30's. This make me wonder if it could be due to differences in individual perception.

    1. Two people don't even see the same tree in the same way. So with something on the borderline of the range of "normal" experience it should be no surprise that there are differences in perception. Most people can't see spirits at all, especially after they are taught that they don't exist, or learn to be afraid.

    2. In some schools of buddhism, they believe in a intermediate phase of I think is 49days after the physical body is dead. But I think in Theravada buddhism, rebirth is believed to be instantly after physical body is dead. This lead me to to think that the 49 days intermediate phase if it exists is not the same as the hungry ghost (preta) realm.

    3. Yeah, the bardo realm of Tibetan Buddhism is not the same as the "ghost realm." It is a kind of mind-created dreamworld--although according to the Tibetans, so is this one we are in now. And you are right that in orthodox Theravadin doctrine the transition between one life and another is necessarily instantaneous. But I suspect that may be a conclusion arrived at through logical necessities of previously arrived-at conclusions, and not through advanced monks actually seeing or remembering the situation. And so long as a "bardo" existence is seen as a brief, actual existence and not as some intermediate state between existences, then it would not necessarily be in conflict with the Theravadin idea. People who have had near death experiences in which they were clinically dead for some time do seem to experience something along the lines of a bardo realm.

  4. Dear Pannobhaso Bhikkhu Ji,
    the last two articles were quite different.. I liked it..But not as much as the "fast" article. on 13th August, I had an "dissociative" experience because of which I could see "Anatta" and the need for "Liberation". There are also some moral principles I intuited because of this "experience" and they were in order of importance 1) Bravery 2) Truthfulness 3) Non-physical Harm of other human beings 4) Being Happy myself and being able to make other people happy in a concrete manner

    But now here comes the things that makes it interesting... I donot see "karma"...(But I can vow there are at least two incidents in my life where I could see karma playing out lucidly becuase of my both good and bad actions)

    I also donot see rebirth.. I mean I donot see rebirth in a one-to-one basis.. A person may hold onto his individuated "personality" because of inertia for some time after his death but then the consciousness disperses and other consciousnesses are reborn

    I mean I am saying one consciousness can become many after death and during rebirth or many can become one after death or during rebirth.. It is not that one to one rebirth is not possible..but the chances are low..

    Am I doing something wrong? Is my thought process colouring my "dissociative" experience too much? It was a culmination of a 3 week journey

    I once read 1.5 yrs back about this partial annihilation in some passing reference in the Chandogya Upanishad.. The "partial annihilation" theory seems to have been mentioned in the earliest 4 Upnishads in very brief but never was it accepted by the other Upanishadic sages and certainly not by the Buddha or later Buddhism

    To make sense of it all I tried to conceive my own metaphysics (given very little treatment to partial annihilation in Up and none in Buddhism) which tended towards some sort of "spiritual atomism".......Instinctively I connected all this to Nasadiya Sukta and the transition from deep dreamless sleep to dreaming

    As I see it now, Nothingness is the ultimate State with All Pervading Consciousness being the state that emanates out of it. And my personal goal as I see it now, is to go into that State of Nothingness after death , totally annihilating the "spiritual atoms" that animate my consciousness, so that they donot get any chance to splinter off and re-animate other consciousnesses ever again

    A lot of supernatural stuffs also were present in my journey the last 3.5 years..And your writings , especially those on Non-dual mysticism and F.H. Bradley were big beacons.

    Can you please tell me where I am going wrong? Your rebuke two weeks back helped me a lot!.. I now have my answers regarding how to handle my sexuality in a sane , non-obsessive way. During the few days after the "experience" I felt Earth is the Divine Heaven..Men are the Gods and women are the Goddesses..No need to look for another heaven..but anyways it faded away..but does come back when I try to revive it

    I am more interested right now in re-reading your meditative experiences with "Pain" /"Suffering" that you alluded to 1.5 years back... I think a lot more people can learn about the wonderful, painful and tragic definitions you gave to love and compassion

    Thank you once again,

    1. OK, there are a number of issues here. First, you cannot see karma. Can you see volition? If you can, then you can see karma, because, according to Buddhism at least, karma is volition. Karma is the momentum of the mind which keeps it moving forwards (or backwards, or sideways) through samsara. If you prefer nouns to verbs, then karma is a kind of pattern which gives stability to our samsaric existence.

      I have considered the possibility that some karma can split off, thereby generating a new conscious being. I got the idea from a very weird book called "Seth speaks." It makes some sense, considering that 1) there is no "self" holding the karma together anyway, and 2) it would account for why there are still an infinite number of unenlightened beings after the elapse of an infinite length of time. It would seem that new beings are added over time, and fragmentation would be one way of accounting for it. It is hard to believe, even if one believes in rebirth, that a human being's karma could fit into a fish or frog or cockroach. But a strand of one's mental momentum could split off and begin the existence of some new being. Maybe.

      With regard to what you are doing wrong...I suppose trying to understand Reality with your intellect is part of it. You can't understand Reality by thinking about it. That is a guarantee of delusion. Some delusion is more refined than other delusions, but still it's all delusion, and it's best not to take mental phenomena too seriously, even if one is thinking about Reality and Divinity. You can't figure out what vanilla tastes like, so the best you can do is find some vanilla and just try it.

      As for Nothingness being the ultimate state, first of all I like Hegel's idea that Nothingness and Everythingness cannot be differentiated. Zero equals infinity. Also, of course, once you have the idea of Nothingness it's not really Nothingness anymore. Now it's a Something. Nothingness cannot be understood, because once you add understanding it's not Nothingness anymore.

      So one last bit of advice is to use intellect and philosophy as a navigational aid, but don't confuse the map with the actual terrain. Ideas and Reality may be very different.

    2. With regards to rebirth is the Theravadian's stance one consciousness to one? If this hold true, could the number of unenlightened beings remains about the same because very very few has succeeded in purifying totally from bad mental habits that create continuation. Some of the data stored could be passive at certain lifetime(s).

      The theory of one consciousness can transmigrated to many and vice versa might be proposal from other budddhist schools. Some schools even proposed that all lifetimes exist together. This seems absurb to me as karma seems surely to be operating on a temporal basis.

      Karma is volition is a future projection/formation. It creates a likelihood or a desire for the future scenario (existence) to be perceived.

    3. I assume by "consciousness" in your first sentence that you mean more than just one atomic moment of consciousness, as per Abhidhamma. But that is entering the realm of "self," and Theravada prefers not to go there.

      You seem not to fully appreciate the fact that eternity is an infinitely long span of time, so it doesn't matter if there is an enlightened being only once in a trillion years---by now an infinite number of them would already have gotten off the wheel.

      The whole "temporal basis" is a construction of human perception, and is hardly the way reality really works. I don't know of any Buddhist school that declares karma to be a future projection, since NOW is really all that matters. There is at least one school, though, the Sarvastivada, which may be extinct now, that does claim that past, present, and future are all now, in a sense. Modern relativity theory makes a similar claim with its space/time continuum.

      But it is true that Theravada, and as far as I know, Buddhism in general, prefers a model of rebirth in which one being becomes one being. But it would seem to me that new beings may be generated into the system somehow. Another strange theory I read in Seth Speaks is that people that we conjure up in our imagination, especially when we dream at night, continue to exist in a kind of crude "spirit realm" after the dream has ended, so that we create new beings just by imagining them. They gradually evolve into more advanced beings as they also continue to take rebirth in Samsara. Weird, but intriguing.

  5. Sorry for the confusion. Consciousness in the above I meant the energy that leave a dead body and look for a new host.

    Pls let me know what you think. Regarding karma, some Buddhist books will explain it this way. If an action is wholesome, it bring shappiness in future. If an action is unwholesome it brings suffering in future. This seems to have a strong sequential basis. In the five aggregates, only volition has karmic consequences. Volition also mean formation or desire. In time to come, mental formation (wish) that dun come true, one experience dukka. If it comes true one experience sukka (although such happiness dun last long).

    1. Well, it's not entirely accurate to say that consciousness at the moment of death, or the moment after it, "looks for a new host," kind of like a parasite. According to the orthodox Theravadin party line, the process occurs automatically and instantaneously, with no time for searching, somewhat like pushing down a lump in a carpet, with the lump immediately rising up somewhere else.

      One can speak in terms of future consequences, but future consequences are a kind of side effect, and are not the main point. The main point is NOW, especially since, in orthodox Theravada at least, the future does not even exist. So talk about the future would be mere conventional truth anyhow, and not reality. Happiness and unhappiness are NOW, or else they don't exist.

    2. Dear Bhante, do you have good knowledge on the development of older Chinese and Sanskrit sects of Buddhism? For example, Yogacara. Why did they want to develop new ideas? Do they think that Four Noble Truths and those in the three baskets are not enough? Or there are things let out in the recordings?

    3. In some respects Mahayana started out as a reform movement, trying to restore lost inspiration and reduce emphasis on intellect in the understanding of Dharma. This is especially true of Prajnaparamita and the Madhyamaka school, and early Chinese Zen appears to have really prospered with that.

      But more important than this is the fact that people continue to think and come up with new ideas; and this is unavoidable, especially as Dharma finds itself in different ages and different societies. It's kind of a dilemma in that on the one hand you have dogmatism repeating dead words in dead books, and on the other you have people coming up with new ideas, most of which stray from the original inspiration.

    4. I would also like to consult Bhante on the issue of relativity of older or newer information in the pitaka. For example, rhinoceros sutta was written by a monk when the Buddha was alive? Dhamapada was supposed to be writings of earlier time? Is there a way to classify or tell which are the earlier information?

    5. For a detailed study of the Pali Canon with regard to early and late, I would recommend "Studies in the Origins of Buddhism" by C. G. Pande. Also the article "What Did the Buddha Really Teach?" on the website addresses this issue.

      With regard to the Rhinoceros Discourse, it is considered to be relatively very early (for instance it is old enough to have a commentary which is also considered to be canonical), although exactly when it was composed is unknown. The Dhammapada, on the other hand, is not considered to be very early, and apparently some other ancient schools of Buddhism didn't have it. What is called the "Tibetan Dhammapada" is really a kind of Mahayana version of the Udana.

    6. Thank you Bhante!

  6. my favourite part of this post was undeniably "Special Bright Love" - the cutie elephant who I could imagine swaying lackadaisically mid mango feast. I thought Bhikkhus in the theravada tradition are not supposed to travel on elephants? Or is it allowable if you are ill?on another note, please could you explain the sentence aobut why women not bothering to investigate why they find babies cute?

    1. It is against the rules of discipline for a monk to ride any animal-drawn vehicle, or ride an animal, unless he is unwell, and my foot injury qualified me for that. Technically, the rule states that a monk shouldn't ride ANY vehicle at all except for boats for crossing rivers, so that in the early decades of the 20th century some Burmese monks wouldn't ride in cars or trains. Now in Burma monks driving cars themselves is finally becoming common.

      The comment about women not looking into their own motives for finding babies irresistible (etc.) was just an example of how we humans are laden with animal instincts and other "automatic" behavior that we don't even try to understand. Laughing is another example. Why do we laugh when something is funny? For that matter, why do we find some things funny? Even scientists don't know.

      Incidentally, Chit San Win is a famous Burmese writer, and the elephant was named after him. The Burmese often name animals after celebrities. My main memory of that elephant was one time when I was feeding him mangoes up close I was struck by the image of this small, intelligent eye in the midst of this vast wall of grey flesh. Like an observing eye stuck out in the middle of nowhere.

  7. I suspect instinct is a type of karmic expression. Whatever type of habits, behaviours, attitudes n views one hold, conditioned one for future existence.

    People laugh either they associate the experience with some happy experience in the past or the feeling generated from that contact is unknown. There should be some psychology data on this. Perhaps on the area of why a comedian made people laugh.