Vedanānupassanā: The notion and its practical value

As it is described by the Buddha in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, there are four areas of our experience to direct our attention and recognize for ourselves the true nature of the world we live in. These areas or foundations are: kāya, vedanā, citta and dhammā. The first and the last ones are very well explained in the Sutta, while the instructions for practicing the two middle ones are considerably shorter. That’s probably the reason why they attract much less attention among researchers as well as practitioners. For example, in a work on satipaṭṭhana by Sayadaw U Sīlānanda, The Four Foundations of Mindfulness, there are only six pages dedicated to the contemplation of vedanā and only two pages for contemplation of citta. On the the other hand, contemplation of kāya is extensively discussed 54 pages and contemplation of dhammas is 44 pages long. This obvious disproportion was intriguing enough for me to chose this topic of this essay, with an intention, first, to explore the exact meaning of the term vedanā and second, to analyze its application in the framework of the specific type of the Buddhist meditation called vedanānupassanā.

In the West, the term vedanā has been, for last 150 years or so, mostly translated as “feeling” or “sensation”. This fact is interesting for three reasons: (1) the meaning of these two terms is not identical; (2) the second one is so vague that, depending on context, it can mean too many things; and (3) neither of them translates properly the real meaning of the term vedanā. While the problem with “feeling” is its vagueness, in the case of “sensation” it seems we are considerably off the mark:

“If a sensation is ‘an impression produced by impulses conveyed by an afferent nerve to the sensorium’ – so a standard medical definition – then such an impulse is rather the precursor of vedanā, rather than vedanā proper, and would, in Buddhist terms, be part of the process called ‘contact’ (phassa) or, more precisely, ‘a tangible’ (phoṭṭhabba). While the contemplation of bodily tangibles and somatic experiences is central to the practice of establishing mindfulness, such practices have their own place in the Satipaṭṭhāna schema under the heading of contemplation of body (kāyanānupassanā), from which the contemplation of feeling-tones (vedanā) are explicitly differentiated.”1

So in the first case vedanā is included into the affective tone of an experience (e.g. ‘feeling’, ‘emotion’) and in the other it is identified it with a felt somatic quality (‘sensation’). It seems that the proper place of vedanā is exactly in between these two events: sense impingement and emotional reaction. Therefore, both translations miss vedanā’s crucial quality – the mind’s evaluative response to experience on an axis of pleasure, indifference and displeasure.

Recently, several authors, including N.R. Reat, P. De Silva and Bhikkhu Analayo, have suggested translating vedanā as “hedonic tone”. However, some other opted for an “affective tone”. All this itself is a good indicator that English vocabulary doesn’t have appropriate word to pinpoint the exact meaning of the Pāli term. Therefore, I choose to stay with vedanā in the rest of this essay, except in citations, of course.

Let us now try to unpack the actual meaning of the term, at least according to the Buddha’s teachings. We can start with the Buddha’s intriguing claim in the Mūlaka Sutta (AN 8:83): “Friends, all things… converge upon feeling.”2 Having in mind such a central position of vedanā in the life of every human being makes it much easier to understand why exactly it got its place among four foundations of mindfulness.

The term vedanā itself is derived from the root √vid and the verb vedeti, which means both “to feel” and “to know”. This indicates that vedanā may have a role in the cognition process. It makes for its affective part, what we sometimes call “intuition”. Therefore, we usually refer to feelings as this type a vague level of knowledge, by saying: “I have a feeling I shouldn’t do that” or “I have an unsettling feeling about that person”. On the other hand, although vedanā strongly influences the arising of emotions, these are not included in its range of meaning. We can say that vedanās are rather rudimentary elements which contribute to the appearance of such a complex phenomenon as an emotion. Thus, emotions are rather the domain of the next satipaṭṭhana, contempation of the dhammas.

Besides, vedanā is used widely in various contexts across the Pāli Canon, in all three Piṭakas. The analysis of that use shows that vedanā coprises both bodily and mental phenomena. It is also one of the key factors of the mind, since it gives flavor, taste or tone to any experienced event. Thus it covers the whole spectrum from pain (dukkha) to pleasure (sukha) and all in between. But at the same time, it is obviously not the objective property of an event or experience, but entirely the subjective quality of our consciousness.

Among the various contexts vedanā figures in the Canon, for our discussion two of these are the most prominent. One is the Buddha’s analysis of the five components (sankharā) constituting an individual being. Following kāya (body), as the only member of the rūpa group, vedanā is the first among arūpa khandhas, accompanied by sañña (perception), sankhāra (mental formation) and viññāna (consciousness). In the Pāli Canon many different types of vedanā are listed. For example, in the Vedanā Saṃyutta (SN 36) it is said that they are of two kinds: bodily and mental. Also of three kinds: pleasant, painful and neither-painful-nor-pleasant. The list continues with five kinds of vedanā: pleasure, pain, joy, displeasure and equanimity. Than come six kinds: the vedanā born from eye-contact, ear-contact, nose-contact, tongue-contact, body-contact and the vedanā born from mind-contact. As this analysis becomes more and more complex, there follow lists of eighteen, thirty six and finally hundred and eight vedanās.

As for the paṭicca-samuppāda schema, vedanā‘s predecessor in the chain of events is contact (phassa), described as a purely sensory event occurring at the moment when a sense organ, its object and the corresponding consciousness meet together: e.g. eye, visible object and eye-consciousness. Contact of these three coming together gives rise to a vedanā. Thus it is obvious that vedanā is not a mere sensory event, but one step further on in the process, which usually continues with the arising of desire (tanhā) and than grasping and identification (upādāna). And exactly at this link between vedanā and tanhā the chain of dependent origination of suffering is the weakest and should be broken.

The fact that vedanā figures in two of the key teachings very well illustrates its great importance in the Buddha’s analysis of the reality. Therefore, as already stated, it doesn’t come as a surprise that vedanā is listed as one of the satipaṭṭhanas, to which we are now directing our attention.

At the outset, let‘s get to the Buddha’s instructions in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, on how to practice vedanānupassanā, how to be fully aware of the various types of pleasant, painful and also neutral vedanās we experience throughout the day:

“And how, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu abide contemplating feelings as feelings? Here, when feeling a pleasant feeling, a bhikkhu understands: ‘I feel a pleasant feeling’; when feeling a painful feeling, he understands: ‘I feel a painful feeling’; when feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘I feel a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling.’ When feeling a worldly pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘I feel a worldly pleasant feeling’; when feeling an unworldly pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘I feel an unworldly pleasant feeling’; when feeling a worldly painful feeling, he understands: ‘I feel a worldly painful feeling’; when feeling an unworldly painful feeling, he understands: ‘I feel an unworldly painful feeling’; when feeling a worldly neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘I feel a worldly neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling’; when feeling an unworldly neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘I feel an unworldly neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling.’

In this way he abides contemplating feelings as feelings internally, or he abides contemplating feelings as feelings externally, or he abides contemplating feelings as feelings both internally and externally. Or else he abides contemplating in feelings their arising factors, or he abides contemplating in feelings their vanishing factors, or he abides contemplating in feelings both their arising and vanishing factors. Or else mindfulness that ‘there is feeling’ is simply established in him to the extent necessary for bare knowledge and mindfulness. And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating feelings as feelings.”3

According to these instructions, the second foundation of mindfulness is actually an act of direct evaluation of every sensory and mental input as they happen. The meditator should be constantly aware of the affective tone of any experience, in terms of it being pleasant (sukha), painful (dukkha) or neutral (adukkhamasukhaṃ). Starting from this basic division, Buddha further segregates vedanā into two groups of three: worldly (sāmisa) and unworldly (nirāmisa) forms. Following explanation given in the Nirāmisa Sutta (SN 36:31), the first type of vedanā (maybe better translated as “sensation”) applies to experiences based on the five physical senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching and the pleasure or unpleasant obtained from these. The other (“non-sensory”) type represents experiences connected to meditative absorptions.

Photo: Mladen Ivanović

Introducing the ethical aspect into this contemplation makes a very important step in practice, having in mind a tight relationship between vedanā and the array of mental reactions that follow it, according to the dependent origination schema. Pointing to this relationship, Pahāna sutta (SN 36:3) for example approaches it from the point of latent tendencies (anusaya):

“Bhikkhus, there are these three feelings. What three? Pleasant feeling, painful feeling, neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling. The underlying tendency to lust should be abandoned in regard to pleasant feeling. The underlying tendency to aversion should be abandoned in regard to painful feeling. The underlying tendency to ignorance should be abandoned in regard to neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling.”4

Thus, unwholesome thoughts and emotions are detected at their point of origination in vedanā. Using such developed mindfulness, one can work towards detachment from the conditioning mechanisms that nature has bestowed upon us. And this is beneficial, since as we all know, in many cases our conditioning brings us a lot of suffering. While the opposite also applies, making these mechanisms looser brings freedom.

The antidote to each of these tendencies recommended by the Satipaṭṭhana Sutta is mindful observation of each of the feeling arisen, accompanied with the clear knowing what is happening: “vedanaṃ vedayāmī’ti pajānāti”. The way different kind of feelings should be considered is given in the Dutiyavedanā Sutta (Itivuttaka, 53):

“The sensation that is pleasant, monks, is to be regarded as dukkha; the sensation that is dukkha is to be regarded as a dart; the sensation that is neither dukkha nor pleasant is to be regarded as impermanent. When the sensation that is pleasant, monks, comes to be seen, on the part of some monk, as dukkha, the sensation that is dukkha comes to be seen as a dart, the sensation that is neither dukkha nor pleasant comes to be seen as impermanent, that monk, monks, is spoken of as an ariyan, as one of right sight, as one who has severed craving, as one who has flung off the fetter, as one who, through the proper penetration of conceit, has made an end of dukkha.”5

In line with the model applied to all other objects of satipaṭṭhana, contemplation of vedanā is further done in reference to both internal (ajjhatta) and external (bahiddhā) ones. The focus of contemplation is on the clear discernment of each feeling’s arising and passing away, while retaining a position of an independent observer and not clinging to any of them. By following these quite concise instructions, the meditator should clearly stay at the level of bare awareness of the experience and the hedonic quality of the vedanā it initiated. This will ensure that he was not carried away by that experience, through volitional reactions or mental proliferation.

Finally, following instructions of the Satipaṭṭhana Sutta, once mindfulness is used to clearly distinguish between three kinds of feelings, be they worldly or unwordly, internal of external, a meditator should contemplate “in feelings both their arising and vanishing factors”. This perspective allows for the most important insight into the changing nature of each feeling and this is clear awareness of their impermanence. Only this insight can assure the meditator that no feeling is worth of grabbing and following, which initiates a process of letting go and relinquishing all attachment to feelings. Only in this way he is able to “abide independent, not clinging to anything in the world”.

Among the contemporary contemplative methods, as far as I know, vedanaupassana plays prominent role only in the framework of S. N. Goenka’s meditation method. Although here the meaning of the term vedanā is narrowed down to the notion of ‘bodily sensations’ (kāya vedanā). Just one vivid example of that importance is contained in the following quotation:

“Whatever arises in the mind, the Buddha discovered, will be accompanied by a physical sensation. Hence, whether the meditator is exploring the mental or the physical aspect of the phenomenon of “I”, awareness of sensation is essential.

This discovery is the unique contribution of the Buddha, of central importance in his teaching. Before him in India among his contemporaries, there were many who taught and practised sīla (morality) and samādhi (concentration). Paññā (wisdom) also existed, at least devotional or intellectual wisdom: it was commonly accepted that mental defilements are the source of suffering, that craving and aversion must be eliminated in order to purify the mind and to attain liberation. The Buddha simply found the way to do it.

What had been lacking was an understanding of the importance of sensation. Then as now, it was generally thought that our reactions are to the external objects of sense–vision, sound, odour, taste, touch, thoughts. However, observation of the truth within reveals that between the object and the reaction is a missing link: sensation. The contact of an object with the corresponding sense door gives rise to sensations; the saññā assigns a positive or negative valuation, in accordance with which the sensation becomes pleasant or unpleasant, and one reacts with craving or aversion. The process occurs so rapidly that conscious awareness of it develops only after a reaction has been repeated many times and has gathered dangerous strength sufficient to overpower the mind. To deal with the reactions, one must become aware of them at the point where they start; they start with sensation, and so one must be aware of sensations. The discovery of this fact, unknown before him, enabled Siddhattha Gotama to attain enlightenment, and this is why he always stressed the importance of sensation.”6

The goal here is to not allow vedanā to transform into tanha, a small spark not to become a big fire. There is no a new fuel for saṃsāra, and the whole cycle is stopped.

Finally, it can be said that relatively less prominent role of vedanānupassanā both in the more traditional approaches to meditation practice in the East as well as in its Western offshoots appears to be somewhat strange, given the fact that we are actually talking about “a power by which we do as we do”. Simply stated, we should be fully aware that vedanā has consequences, and that these consequences are observable in many areas of modern life, from personal to social, from local to global. No doubt that this powerful force of vedanā will continue to produce many unwanted and undesirable consequences as long as it, undisclosed and unacknowledged, drives behavior, both individually and collectively.

The Buddha has fully recognized the powerful and ever-present nature of vedanā. He rightly understood vedanā as something inescapable, that has no end. Because vedanā is deeply woven into the fabric of our experience, shaping, coloring and directing it. To be human means to be experiencing vedanā with all its pleasantness and unpleasantness. As the Buddha explained with one of his famous similes in the Agāra Sutta (SN 36:11), we are simply a guest house for the comings and goings of vedanā:

“Bhikkhus, suppose there is a guest house. People come from the east, west, north, and south and lodge there. So too, bhikkhus, various feelings arise in this body: pleasant feeling arises; painful feeling arises, neither-painful-nor pleasant feeling arises; worldly pleasant feeling arises; worldly painful feeling arises; worldly neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling arises; unworldly pleasant feeling arises; unworldly painful feeling arises; unworldly neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling arises.”7

Being a guest house is not as much of a problem as those automatic, habitual reactions to various comings and goings of vedanā. These reactions, when left unnoticed and under the radar of mindfulness very frequently manifest as displays of greed and aversion, covetousness and hatred. And that has grave consequences for our well-being, but also for well-being of the people we share our life with. Multiplying this kind of reactions by constant repeating and by majority of members of a society lifts those consequences to an even higher level, creating social tensions and deep lines of division between social, age, gender, and ethnic groups and finally between whole nations. Knowing this, we can even more appreciate Buddha’s timeless message:

Na hi verena verāni, sammantīdha kudācanaṃ.
averena ca sammanti, esa dhammo sanantano.

For not by hatred do hatreds cease at any time in this place,
they only cease with non-hatred, this truth is surely eternal.”8


1 Akincano M. Weber, “Hedonic Hotspots, Hedonic Potholes: Vedanā Revisited”. Contemporary Buddhism, 2018.
2 Bhikkhu Bodhi (2012), The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha. Boston: Wisdom Publications, p. 1231-32.
3 Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli & Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publication, 1995, p. 149-150.
4 Bhikkhu Bodhi (2012), p. 1261.
5 The Itivuttaka, transl. Peter Masefield. Oxford, PTS 2001, p. 48.
6 S.N. Goenka, The Discourse Summaries, Talks from a Ten-day Course in Vipassana Meditation, Igatpuri, India, Vipassana Research Institute, 2010, p.56.
7 Bhikkhu Bodhi (2012), p. 1273.
8 Dhammapada, Transl. Anandajoti Bhikkhu, 2016, p. 19. (accessed on August 28, 2019)

Šta je to duhovnost?

Duhovnost je reč vrlo popularna u, jelte, duhovnim krugovima. Tu mislim na ljude koji, svako na svoj način, pokušavaju da prošire svoje razumevanje ovoga sveta, a neki od njih i da to razumevanje, često imenovano kao duhovnost, onda prenesu drugima. Naravno, koliko ljudi toliko načina i toliko shvatanja pojma duhovnost. Zato bih ovde napisao nekoliko pasusa o tome kako tu reč ja razumem kao budista, nadajući se da će takvo budističko razumevanje biti inspirativno i onima koji idu drugom stazom, ali su im motivi, a možda i krajnji cilj isti.

Kao početnu definiciju duhovnosti predlažem sledeće: duhovnost je ono što radimo da bismo ostali povezani. Tu se, naravno, odmah moram nadovezati još jednim objašnjenjem: A šta to znači biti povezan? To jednostavno znači otići makar malo dalje od našeg ograničenog, individualnog osećaja sopstva, ega, ja, kako u razmišljanju, tako i delovanju. To je početak onoga što je Buda nazivao – buđenjem. Drugim rečima, rođenje jednog podsticajnog saznanja da je svako od nas deo jedne “veće slike”. Kada smo to jednom razumeli, naslutili, prepoznali, videli… načinili smo važan korak na našem duhovnom putu, jer nam to razumevanje obezbeđuje dva vitalna sastojka svakog života koji se s pravom može tako nazvati, a to su: smisao i energija. Smisao, svrha našeg života izvire iz svesti da smo deo nečeg većeg od nas samih, nečega što nas povezuje sa drugima i svetom koji nas okružuje. To je jedna nadahnjujuća spoznaja, mada moramo priznati da njen praktični aspekt življenja u tom “većem” svetu nije nimalo lak. Upravo nam zato treba ovaj drugi sastojak – energija. Mnogo energije! A pošto je mnogo, ta energija mora dolaziti izvan nas, da bi se potom manifestovala jedino u nama i kroz nas.

O ovom smislu (hranjenom energijom) na izvanredan način je pisao veliki vijetnamski mudrac Thich Nhat Hanh, formulišući ga kroz pojam “intebeing”, koji nije lako prevesti na srpski, ali neka bude “među-bivanje”, bivanje među/sa drugima i u drugima. Nhat Hanh tako govori o toj velikoj slici, čiji deo već jesmo, ali je neophodno da se za nju otvorimo i osvestimo je. I upravo je duhovnost to što radimo da bismo se otvorili i osvestili. Budisti bi takvu duhovnost nazvali praksom, plemenitim putem, načinom delovanja, koje je specifično po tome što za cilj ima odlazak iza svakog delovanja. To je delovanje koje na kraju završava uvidom da zapravo nije potrebno da činimo bilo šta specijalno. Sve što nam je neophodno već nam je dato. Tako, mi radimo, vežbamo kako ne bismo uopšte morali da vežbamo. Vrhunsko vežbanje postaje samo naše življenje, “među-bivanje” u probuđenosti za ono što već jesmo. To je jedan kvalitativni skok u našoj samosvesti. U budizmu, baš kao i u većini drugih religija, kada duhovno vežbanje počinje da funkcioniše, to zapravo znači fundamentalnu promenu načina na koji osećamo sebe i ovaj svet oko nas. Ta promena iz centra našeg svemira izmešta “ja” i u njega postavlja “drugog”. Minijatura koju smo sve vreme imali pred očima pretvara se u ogromno platno, a sa tim dolazi sve snažniji osećaj ukorenjenosti u nečem mnogo većem od onoga što jesmo i što radimo kao individue. Taj osećaj, ta energija uvida u “veliku sliku” nas ukorenjuje, stabilizuje iznutra, ali nas u isto vreme pokreće ka spolja, ka drugome, stvarajući u nama osećaj odgovornosti za tog drugoga. Stalo nam je do drugih ljudi, drugih bića uopšte. I ne zaboravljamo da među njih ubrojimo i sebe same. Tako da sa produbljivanjem duhovne prakse linija razdvajanja između “ja” i drugoga postaje sve zamućenija, dok na kraju sasvim ne iščezne. Ovako ukorenjeni u “velikoj slici” osećamo prirodni impuls da nam je stalo do svakog njenog dela.

Ako sve ovo želimo da prevedemo na budističke termine, možemo reći da ovde govorimo od dva temeljna stuba budističke duhovnosti, a to su mudrost i saosećanje. Mudrost je upravo to buđenje za našu ukorenjenost u “među-bivanju”, što nas ispunjava zaista isceljujućim mirom iz kojeg se sa potpunim razumevanjem suočavamo sa svim što nam se događa. I kako rastemo u toj mudrosti, ona neizbežno izrasta u saosećanje. Ukorenjeni u miru mudrosti, sasvim spontano približavamo se drugome (i sebi) sa jednom sveobuhvatnom brižnošću. A kada smo stigli na prag saosećanja, tada smo u prilici da potpuno jasno uočimo koliko je duboka veza između duhovnosti i morala ili vrline. Otuda ne čudi ogroman broj govora koje je Buda posvetio upravo toj temi. Takođe ne čudi da vrlina zauzima tako važno mesto i u opisu budističke duhovne prakse, formulisane kao plemeniti osmostruki put. Od njegovih osam delova, tri su upravo posvećena vrlini. Tako, prva dva koraka na putu (ispravno razumevanje i ispravna misao) pozivaju nas da posle pažljivog upoznavanja sa učenjem i promišljanja o njegovom smislu, uzmemo to učenje vrlo ozbiljno. Naredna tri koraka (ispravni postupci, ispravne reči i ispravno življenje) imaju vrlo jasnu poruku za svakoga ko želi da sledi Budin put: ako povređuješ druge na bilo koji način – svojim postupcima, rečima ili načinom na koji zarađuješ za život – tada bez obzira koliko si mnogo knjiga o budizmu pročitao, koliko do najsitnijih detalja poznaješ učenje ili mudre misli velikih učitelja, bez obzira čak koliko sati provedeš sedeći na jastučetu za meditaciju, ništa od toga neće vredeti! To kako postupaš sa drugim živim bićima će odrediti šta se događa sa tobom dok sediš u tišini, recituješ stihove, ponavljaš mantu, klanjaš se ili obavljaš neki ritual. I to je ta vitalna veza, u budizmu, a i u drugim religijama, između etike i duhovnosti. Zapravo, možemo reći da između njih ne postoji bilo kakva razlika, to su dva naziva za jednu istu stvar. Način na koji tretiramo druga bića jeste u isto vreme uslov za i ujedno izraz naše duhovnosti: buđenje za najširu mrežu međusobno povezanih bića, stvari i događaja ili ono što bi Buda nazvao “Brahmađāla”, “Brahmina mreža” ili “najšira mreža” . Dakle, postoji etički nužni uslov za mogućnost duhovnog probuđenja, vrlina uklanja prepreke i postavlja pozornicu na kojoj će se odvijati naša duhovna praksa i isto tako njeno finale.

Ali domet vrline se tu ne zaustavlja. Jer sam čin brige za drugo biće, naš napor da zaštitimo drugu osobu, životinju ili drvo već predstavlja duhovnu praksu. Budističkim rečnikom rečeno, saosećanje jeste mudrost, baš kao što u rečniku hrišćanstva ljubav prema bližnjem već jeste ljubav prema Bogu. Tu dolazimo na prag jednog novog uvida važnog za budističku i svaku drugu istinsku duhovnost, do uvida u jedinstvo ili ne-dualnost, kako bi to nazvali kasniji budistički mislioci. Radi se o jedinstvu “velike slike” i naše male slike, naše individualnosti, bića, sopstva, jedinstva između beskonačnog i konačnog, ili opet u hrišćanskim rečnikom rečeno, jedinstva između Tvorca i stvorenog. Ta ideja je naročito razvijana unutar mahāyana budističke tradicije, gde se govori o praznini i formi i njihovoj uzajamnosti. Nemoguće je imati prazninu bez forme, niti formu bez praznine. Tako dolazimo do saznanja da velika i mala slika nisu dva odvojena realiteta. Oni su u isto vreme i dva i jedno. Moguće ih je razlikovati, ali ne i razdvojiti. Egzistiraju jedno u drugom i kroz jedno drugo. Upravo to je ta povezanost sadržana u definiciji duhovnosti s početka: ono što radimo da bismo ostali povezani. A ta povezanost, baš kao ni bilo šta drugo (recimo hrana, ljubav ili miris ruže) ne može se iskusiti, koliko god o njoj razmišljali, spekulisali ili diskutovali. Ta vrsta znanja ili razumevanja stvarnosti moguća je, i to samo na prvi pogled zvuči paradoksalno, samo ne-mišljenjem, to jest odlaskom iza pojmova, definicija i misaonih konstrukcija. Moguća je, dakle, samo življenjem same te povezanosti, koju onda s pravom možemo nazvati duhovnošću.

Scholasticism and meditation

( Georges B. J. Dreyfus: The Sound of Two Hands Clapping: The Education of a Tibetan Buddhist Monk )

It is the normative ideal of developing wisdom that the model of the three acumens intends to promote. Monks first undergo an extended scholastic training, which prepares them for the intensive practice of meditation. But not all students are equally concerned about soteriological matters. Some show great devotion early on in their studies and are strongly drawn to the more strictly religious aspects of the teachings. One of my classmates at the Buddhist School represents this type. He was always an enthusiastic participant in devotional practices such as the all-night prostration around the temple. Later, he became a hermit and by now has spent more than ten years in strict meditative retreat. Not everybody is cut out for such a path, and most monks do not see themselves as being capable of such singleminded dedication. I believe that in our class of twenty or so, two became hermits.

Other students, such as myself, see their studies as an occasion for intellectual stimulation as much as a source of religious inspiration. Such an attitude is not rejected by the tradition, which values intellectual activity too highly to belittle anyone who is seriously engaged in scholarship. The tradition sees scholastic studies as a form of merit making and hence as intrinsically valuable. Moreover, the intellectually gifted monks who are committed scholars and less immediately attracted by intensive meditative practice are precious, for it is from among them that the future monastic leaders and teachers are recruited. Meditators are rarely interested in leading others or even teaching. Hence, the more scholastically oriented students are crucial to sustaining the tradition. They will become abbots and teachers, often sacrificing their desire to retire into more intensive meditative practice.

That intensive meditation comes after studies does not mean that the two activities are wholly incompatible. In fact, the monks who become hermits often begin their practice while studying and gradually develop a stronger commitment to intensive meditation. But how many monks meditate in the large Tibetan scholastic centers? Not many, it appeared to me. My impression is confirmed by my interviews of monks trained in Tibet. Though a few, such as Geshe Rab-ten, said that they had engaged in the
type of contemplation described in the Stages of the Path literature, most admitted they did not meditate. Some even confessed that they had never followed a teaching on the Stages of the Path during the many years that they spent in the monastery in Tibet. One thus can reasonably claim that most scholars do little or no formal meditation while studying, a claim also backed by my personal experience. I never managed to combine studies and meditation, despite the encouragement of some teachers, and I believe that my failure is typical of all but a few.

Such widespread failure is hardly surprising, for meditation has never been the concern of more than a minority. Some may believe that this lack of interest reflects a degeneration from some purer form of the tradition, but they are wrong. There is in fact no obligation for a Buddhist monk to practice meditation. Being a good monk entails abiding diligently by the numerous rules of the Vinaya, and practicing meditation is not included in those rules. In general, to meditate is not a moral obligation, whereas to follow precepts is. This is not to deny meditation an important role in Buddhism and in monastic practice, but to underscore that its role must be understood properly.

More often than not, meditation’s role is normative: it is the means through which the ultimate goals of the tradition can be realized. As such it is highly valued, for without it the whole system of religious practice is in danger of collapsing. That status as a normative practice also implies that it is important to be able to point to some people as practicing meditation. They are the virtuosi who authenticate the ultimate claims of the tradition, but their numbers are small. Meditation is a difficult practice, and not everybody will equally succeed in it or even benefit from it. Moreover, there are many other practices that are important. Why engage in meditation, unless one feels a special call and ability to do so?

A monk at the Nam-gyel monastery expressed a typical view when I asked him why he was not meditating. Visibly becoming defensive, he said, “You Westerners are really quite funny. You all want to become a great meditator and become buddha in this life like Mi-la-re-pa. You think it’s easy.You do not realize how difficult this is and how much sacrifice one must be ready to make. In Tibet, there were hundreds of thousands of monks, and one or two managed to achieve realization.” Many traditional Buddhists would agree with his reply. This stance is often combined with the cosmological vision of the degenerate nature of the times (snyigs dus), a view pervasive in most Buddhist traditions. Many of my teachers shared this outlook, arguing that our time is too degenerate to allow much spiritual development. One put it this way: “We are not strong enough to reach realization in this lifetime. But we can prepare ourselves so that when Maitreya [the next buddha] comes, we will be in good shape and become one of his chief disciples.” The traditional cosmology suggests that the wait will be rather long, and hence there seems to be no compelling reason to rush toward enlightenment.

As some of the monks themselves recognized, this outlook can be taken as authorizing all kinds of accommodations with worldly concerns, and it often is an excuse for laziness. Yet it also reflects a wisdom that Western converts, myself included, are frequently unable to appreciate. Cultivation of virtues is a difficult process undertaken by each individual, requiring time and patience. One should therefore engage in the task in the way that is appropriate to oneself, with no expectation of quick results. The Dalai Lama told me one day, “You will see that you will not be able to achieve too much, but this does not matter as long as the little you do is valuable.” I was taken aback by this statement; I was then twenty-two, and the sky seemed the limit. I thought, “Maybe you are talking about yourself or people around you, but don’t count on me to wait until Maitreya comes!” I soon learned that the arrogance of the neophyte is indeed no guarantee of success.

To fully understand the role of meditation in monastic education, we must qualify the claim that most Tibetan monks do not meditate, for it presupposes too narrow an understanding of Buddhist meditation. The Buddhist practice should not be reduced to concentration on a single point. The Sanskrit word bhāvanā , which is usually the term translated as “meditation,” literally means “development” or “cultivation” and thus has a broader application. In Tibetan, it is translated as sgom pa, which derives from the word gom, “habituation.” Thus, if we accept meditation as a translation of the Sanskrit and Tibetan words, we see that to meditate entails cultivating positive habits, or virtues. Far from being reduced to a single type of exercise, meditation as traditionally understood appears to include a vast array of practices.

Lay Buddha

The Case of Anāthapiṇḍika

Pali Canon contains thousands of Buddha’s discourses, overwhelming majority of which is addressed to the monks. That is what might be expected, knowing that the Teacher was mostly surrounded by them and also teaching them. Also, the monks were those who selected, organized and edited discourses into the structure known today as the Theravada canon. Certainly it is a fact that influenced the final outcome and the criteria what to consider as a trustworthy source of the Buddha’s teachings and what not. However, putting all these considerations aside, there is still a number of suttas which were specifically addressed to the lay followers. Unfortunately, so far this layer of the Canon hasn’t received much attention, nor the questions it raises have been thoroughly explored. What are the differences regarding the content and the mode of teaching between “bhikkhu suttas” and “upāsaka suttas”? And what are the specific values and goals of practice highlighted in this second group?

It is obvious that this task to be manageable and to fit into a scope of an essay, had to be limited to a relatively small portion of the Canon. Instead of haphazardly choosing a set of the “householder” suttas in any of the five Nikāyas, I decided to take another approach and select all the suttas with the same Budha’s interlocutor, which cuts across three Nikāyas (MN, SN, AN). For this essay I chose that to be the Buddha’s greatest benefactor Anāthapiṇḍika. That way, I hoped, it would be possible to get a more consistent and balanced picture of the teachings aimed at a lay person. This expectation was encouraged by the comment from Ven. Nyanaponika Thera:

“Many of the occasions when the Buddha gave instructions to Anāthapiṇḍika have been recorded in the Pali Canon. These teachings form a comprehensive code of lay Buddhist ethics, and by eliciting them from the Blessed One Anāthapiṇḍika has also become a benefactor to countless generations of Buddhist laypeople…”1

Just a few words on Anāthapiṇḍika, before we turn to the suttas itself. A rich banker (seṭṭhi) from Sāvatthi, Anāthapiṇḍika is immortalized in the Pali Canon as greatest Buddha’s supporter. His real name was Sudatta, and the title under which he is well know means “one who gives alms (piṇḍa) to the helpless (anātha)”, which is the best testimony of his generous heart. Soon after Buddha’s Enlightenment, they met for the first time in Rājagaha, where Anāthapiṇḍika traveled on same business. Hugely impressed by the Awakened One, he invited him to Sāvatthi and on that occasion donated the famous Jeta’s Grove, where the Buddha spent most of his vassas, all in all 19 out of forty five years of his teaching life. Although visiting Buddha twice a day, he was cautious to ask to much questions, thinking: “The Tathāgata is a delicate Buddha, a delicate prince. If the Teacher would think: ‘This householder is my supporter’ and by teaching the Dhamma to me, he would become tired”.2

Apart from the commentaries, which I excluded from the scope of this essay, in the whole Pali Canon there are 23 suttas where Anāthapiṇḍika converses with the Buddha or some of his leading disciples.3 Most of them are in the Aṅguttara Nikāya (17), the rest in the Saṃyutta Nikāya (5) and only one in the Majjhima Nikāya. Let’s see their content and the context, trying to sketch the main themes and topics and having in mind an excellent and much broader work related to “layman suttas”, that has been already done by John Kelly.4

As Bhikkhu Bodhi highlights in the foreword to his translation of the Aṅguttara Nikāya, texts in this collection focus “on aspects of practical training”, so “subjects range from the basic ethical observances recommended to the busy layperson, through the pillars of mind training, to the highest meditative state, the samadhi or concentration of the arahant.”5 One such busy layperson was Anāthapiṇḍika, so the type of the teaching he received according to the suttas in the Aṅguttara Nikāya might be expected to be mostly about initial steps of the Buddhist path: dāna and sīla. Let us briefly see the content of the first 17 suttas.

In the sutta AN 2:256 the Buddha instructs him about generosity: who is worthy of offering, where is gift to be given: “In this world trainee (sekha) and the one beyond training are worthy of the gifts of those practicing charity”. In the suttas AN 3:109 and AN 3:110 the message on guarding the mind, conveyed through the metaphor of a peaked roof and its rafters, is the same: if the mind is not protected, it becomes polluted. Further on, that influences our thoughts, words and deeds, bringing finally bad destination after death. The sutta AN 4:58 is again about generosity and the boons of life, beauty, happiness and strength bestowed both on the receiver and the giver. The same motive of generosity marks the next three suttas, while there is only slight variation in the rewards the lay persons who “serve the virtuous monks of upright conduct” can expect from their unselfish deeds. In the sutta AN 4:60 these are good reputation and rebirth in the heaven. In the sutta AN 4:61 the for things that are wished for rarely attained by a householder are connected with the four qualities that lead to them. These are faith, virtuous behavior, generosity and wisdom. Accomplishment in each of this virtues is further on analyzed and supporting factors explained. This explanation points to the proper faith in Tathāgata’s Enlightenment, five precepts as a basis for virtuous behavior, delighting in giving and, finally, understanding what are the five obstacles to developing wisdom. In the next sutta, AN 4:62, Buddha describes four types of happiness a layperson may enjoy: the happiness of ownership, the happiness of enjoyment, the happiness of freedom from debt and the happiness of blame­lessness.

In the sutta AN 5:41 Anāthapiṇḍika was illuminated on how five ways a wealth could be utilized. It can be used to make happy owner and his family, also friends and relatives. Further on it can be used for protection from the loss, also given as a offering for the benefit of relatives, guests, ancestors, the king and the deities. The fifth way of proper use of wealth is giving alms to ascetics and brahmins who tame themselves. The next sutta AN 5:43 explains which five things are wished for the most and rarely gained in this world: long life, beauty, happiness, fame and heavens. The Buddha warns Anāthapiṇḍika that they are not obtained by means of prayers and aspirations, because in that case everyone would have more than enough of everything. However, they can be obtained by practicing way of life conducive to each of these five things, which in essence means ethical life.

The sutta AN 5:174 deals with five perils and enmities which, if not abandoned, make one immoral and reborn in hell. These are destruction of life, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, false speech, and indulging in intoxicants. In the next sutta (AN 5:176) the Buddha warns a big group of householders led by Anāthapiṇḍika not to be satisfied only with giving four necessities to the bhikkhus, but also to put effort into their own spiritual progress. So the advice is to inquire on how they can from time to time enter and dwell in the rapture of solitude. Another topic related to the spiritual training available to householders emerge in the sutta AN 5:179, where the Buddha and Sāriputta, surrounded by the group of lay people led by Anāthapiṇḍika discuss on four pleasant dwellings that pertain to the higher mind, which are available to the stream enterer. These dwellings are states of unwavering confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, as well as possession of immaculate virtue, leading to concentration. A householder achieves these dwellings by being restrained with five training rules.

Practically the same content on four factors of stream entry has sutta AN 9:27, while in the sutta AN 9:27 Buddha instructs Anāthapiṇḍika on the right way of giving and the great benefits of developing the perception of impermanence just for the time of a finger snap. Finally, there are three suttas in The Book of Tens we are interested in. The first one expounds ten kinds of persons who enjoy sensual pleasures existing in this world (AN 10:91) and the second (AN 10:92) is about five perils of misbehavior, four factors of stream-entry (unwavering confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and flawless virtue), as well as “the noble method clearly seen and thoroughly penetrated with wisdom” (dependent origination). The last sutta (AN 10:93) contains Buddha’s refutation of wrong views by other wanderers.

As we can see, the range of topic covered in these suttas is rather broad and defy a widespread belief that the suttas aimed at lay persons in the Pāli Canon exclusively deal with faith, generosity, virtue and a long list of profane matters like family relations, how to deal with vicissitudes of life and what is gained by giving to the Sangha. Of course, being a realist, the Buddha in conversation with his lay followers and other unordained people very often talked exactly about these things. But with those of them who were really devoted to the practice and mature enough in their mental development, he didn’t shy of encouraging them to search for a solitude and meditate. He very well knew that the benefits of mental culture are not reserved for the monks and nuns. Being one of the first Buddha’s devotees and staying with the Teacher and his foremost disciples for so long, Anāthapiṇḍika was an example of lay persons from this second group. For them even the state of stream entry is achievable in this life.

In the Saṃyutta Nikāya there are five suttas related to Anāthapiṇḍika, but their content doesn’t expand the range of topics we just listed in the Aṅguttara Nikāya. Therefore we will briefly deal with the last discourse from our selection, which is Anāthapiṇḍikovāda Sutta (MN 143). This discourse is actually delivered by Venerable Sāriputta, in the presence of Venerable Ānanda, and by the deathbed of the aged and sick Anāthapiṇḍika. Answering to the aged devotee’s complains about deterioration of his health, Venerable Sāriputta gives a very profound teaching. Interesting detail is that even being on a deathbed, Anāthapiṇḍika doesn’t want to bother the Buddha and instead invites Venerable Sāriputta to visit him and give some words of relief. On hearing those words, he has an intriguing comment: “But although I have long waited upon the Teacher and bhikkhus worthy of esteem, never before have I heard such a talk on the Dhamma.”7 Once he was answered that such deep teaching is, as a rule, reserved for monks, it gives a great credit to Anāthapiṇḍika that even in this difficult moment he thinks of other lay people’s benefit: “Well then, venerable Sariputta, let such talk on the Dhamma be given to lay people clothed in white. There are clansmen with little dust in their eyes who are wasting away through not hearing [such talk on] the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.”8 The plea which, of course, brings to mind a very similar request made by Brahma Sahampati to just enlightened Buddha. This selfless care for the others even in the last moments of life also resembles of the Buddha’s worry that Cunda will be blamed for Teacher’s dead and request for Ānanda to go back and comfort the poor blacksmith.

For the sake of truth and judging by many examples in the Canon, we can say that this kind of two level approach to teaching: one for laity and the other for ordained, never existed in the Buddha Dispensation. This might also be corroborated by some of the suttas from Aṅguttara Nikāya we just described, where more advanced instructions, like those towards developing the perception of impermanence, were given. The same case we have in this sutta, where Venerable Sāriputta teaches on uprooting of all attachments to sense faculties, sense objects, sense consciousness, sense contacts, feelings, four elements, five aggregates, the formless bases, the world or any sense experience.

Therefore, it can be concluded that a variety of topics covered in the suttas delivered to the laity is even wider than in those aimed at monastics. They include great number of those discourses explaining various modes of good life and conduct, as it it is exemplified, for example, in the famous Sigalovāda sutta. But these topics also cover the whole Noble Eightfold Path, with his three aspects of sīla, samādhi and paññā. Of course, the difference lies in the predominance of the suttas of one or another type, where those dealing with the first aspect are many, while those on meditation and wisdom are proportionally less among discourses to the laity.


Suttas on Anāthapiṇḍika

MN 143 [MN III 258–263] Anāthapiṇḍikovāda (Advice to Anāthapiṇḍika): Ven. Sāriputta to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — advice on his deathbed; radical non-clinging to anything at all, and through that, liberation; and Anāthapiṇḍika’s asking why he had never been taught like this before.

SN 10:8 [SN I 210–212] Sudatta (Sudatta): a yakkha to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — Anāthapiṇḍika (Sudatta) being urged on by a yakkha to his first meeting of with the Buddha; on sleeping well when one has cut off attachments.

SN 12:41 [SN II 68–70] Pañcabhayavera (Five Fearful Animosities): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — five perils and enmities (non-virtuous behaviour), four factors of stream-entry (unwavering confidence in Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, and flawless virtue), and penetration with wisdom of dependent origination.

SN 55:26 [SN V 380–385] Paṭhama Anāthapiṇḍika (Anāthapiṇḍika 1): Ven. Sāriputta to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika; the Buddha to Ven. Ānanda — the four factors of stream-entry in ten modes.

SN 55:27 [SN V 385–387] Dutiya Anāthapiṇḍika (Anāthapiṇḍika 2): Ven. Ānanda to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — declaration of the fruit of stream-entry through the four factors: unwavering confidence in Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, and flawless virtue.

SN 55:28 [SN V 387–389] Paṭhamabhayaverūpasanta (Fearful Animosities 1): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — five perils and enmities (non-virtuous behaviour), four factors of stream-entry (unwavering confidence in Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, and flawless virtue), and penetration with wisdom of dependent origination.

AN 2:35 [AN I 62–63]: to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — the two worthy of offerings.

AN 3:109 [AN I 261–262] Arakkhita (Unprotected): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — protection of bodily, verbal and mental actions.

AN 3:110 [AN I 262–263] Byāpanna (Failed): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — one whose bodily, verbal, and mental activities fail will not have a good death.

AN 4:58 [AN II 63–64] Sudatta (Sudatta): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — four things [later] received from the gift of food: life, beauty, happiness, and strength.

AN 4:60 [AN II 65–65] Gihīsāmīcipaṭipadā (The Layperson’s Proper Practice): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — four qualities proper to a householder: he presents robes to the Sangha of bhikkhus; he presents alms food; he presents lodging; he presents medicinal requisites and [other] supports for the sick.

AN 4:61 [AN II 65–69] Pattakamma (Worthy Deeds): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — four things wished for and rarely attained by a householder: wealth, fame, health and long life, and a good rebirth; four qualities that lead to these things: accomplishment in faith, virtuous behaviour, generosity, and wisdom; plus four worthy ways of

AN 4:62 [AN II 69–70] Ānaṇya (Freedom from Debt): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — four kinds of happiness that may be achieved by the householder: happiness of ownership, of enjoyment, of freedom from debt, and of blamelessness.

AN 5:41 [AN III 45–46] Pañcabhoga ādiya (Five Utilisations of Wealth): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — five utilisations of wealth.

AN 5:43 [AN III 47–49] Pañca iṭṭhadhamma (Five Wished For Things): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — five things that are wished for and rarely gained:

AN 5:174 [AN III 204–206] Vera (Enemies): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — the five perils and enemies of immorality.

AN 5:176 [AN III 206–208] Pīti (Rapture): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika and five hundred lay followers — five things that do not occur in him who enters and dwells in the rapture of solitude.

AN 5:179 [AN III 211–214] Gihī (Householder): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika and five hundred lay followers, via Ven. Sāriputta — five training rules and four dwellings in happiness.

AN 9:20 [AN IV 392–396] Velāma (Velāma): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — on the right way of giving; most fruitful if one would develop the perception of impermanence just for the time of a finger snap.

AN 9:27 [AN IV 405–407] Paṭhamaverabhaya (Enmity and Peril 1): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — five perils and enmities (non-virtuous behaviour) and four factors of stream-entry (unwavering confidence in Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, and flawless virtue).

AN 10:91 [AN V 176–182] Kāmabhogī (One Who Enjoys Sensual Pleasures): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — ten kinds of persons who enjoy sensual pleasures found existing in the world.

AN 10:92 [AN V 182–184] Bhaya (Peril): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — five perils and enmities (non-virtuous behaviour), four factors of stream-entry (unwavering confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and flawless virtue), and the noble method clearly seen and thoroughly penetrated with wisdom (dependent origination).

AN 10:93 [AN V 185–189] Kiṃdiṭṭhika (Holding What View?): to the householder Anāthapiṇḍika — refutation of wrong views by other wanderers.


1 Nyanaponika Thera and H. Hecker, ed. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Great Disciples of the Buddha: Their Lives, Their Works, Their Legacy. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2003, p. 351.
2 Dhammapada Commentary, I.3: “tathāgato buddhasukhumālo khattiyasukhumālo, ‘bahūpakāro me, gahapatī’ti mayhaṃ dhammaṃ desento kilameyyā”ti.
3 Complete list of suttas is in the Appendix.
4 John Kelly, “The Buddha’s Teachings to Lay People”, Buddhist Studies Review, 28.1 (2011).
5 Bhikkhu Bodhi (2012), The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2012, p. 21.
6 All sutta numbering is according to the Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation quoted in footnote 5.
7 Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli & Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publication, 1995, p. 1112.
8 Ibid.
9 The list compiled from: John Kelly, “The Buddha’s Teachings to Lay People”, Buddhist Studies Review, 28.1 (2011).

Look at your life as a question

Look at your life as a question, not a fact. Because any true spiritual / religious search is always a search for meaning. And then that question may be, “Who am I?” But also “Why am I suffering?” Do not rush with an answer, because the beauty is in the questions, not in the hasty, finished answers that become problematic the next moment, because the circumstances have changed. Rather use these questions as a point from which you look at the gradual flow of this world, its transformation, movement, emergence and disappearance. Travel with him, change with him, enjoy that adventure for as long as it lasts.

Šta je to Saṅgha?

Kao što znamo, u budizmu ne postoji nekakav svemoćni bog u čiju milost bismo se uzdali. Svet se odvija u skladu sa bezličnim zakonom uzroka i posledica, tako da smo u oblikovanju svog života i dostizanju ciljeva koje smo sebi odredili oslonjeni uglavnom sa same sebe. Kažem uglavnom, zato što ipak nismo bespomoćni i prepušteni samima sebi. Postoje stvari/ljudi koji nam pomažu da žiivmo spokojnije i srećnije, naravno ako im, opet, mi sami dopustimo da nam pomognu. Takvo je i trojstvo koje nazivamo ti-sarana, triutočišta ili tri zaštite: Buda, Dhamma (njegovo učenje) iSaṅga? Pa šta je to Saṅgha?

Prema tradicionalnoj egzegezi, ova reč se koristi u dva značenja: kao oznaka za monašku zajednicu koju čine monasi (bhikkhu) i monahinje (bhikkhunī). To se zove „institucionalna Saṅgha“ ili „konvencionalna Saṅgha“ (sammutisaṅgha). Drugo značenje je „zajednica plemenitih“ (ariyasaṅgha), koju čini osam vrsta plemenitih ljudi, odnosno četiri para onih koji su dostigli jedan od uzvišenih puteva prakse ili plodova takve prakse: „onaj ko je ulašao u tok“ (sottāpanna) , jednom povratnik (sakadāgāmi), nepovratnik (anāgāmi) i arahant. Na osnovu ove dvodelne podele se onda govori da konvencionalnu Saṅghu čine isključivo zaređeni, bilo plemeniti ili ne, dok plemenita Saṅgha obuhvata ne samo zaređene, već i one nezaređene, koji takođe mogu da dostignu neki od četiri puta i ploda probuđenja.

U Budinim govorimo linija između ove dve vrste Saṅghe nije toliko jasno povučena kako to predstavlja kasnija budistička egzegeza. Prvo, kada god novi sledbenici Dhamme kažu da uzimaju utočište, oni to čine tako što potvrđuju kako je od sada pa nadalje njihovo treće utočište „Saṅgha bhikkhua“ (i monahinja). To pokazuje da su oni (ili redaktori Pāli kanona) kao treće utočište shvatali isključivo monašku zajednicu. Drugo, standardna formula za plemenitu Saṅghu je opisuje terminima koji bolje pristaju asketama, nego kućedomaćinima: ona je „vredna darova, vredna gostoprimstva, vredna podržavanja, vredna poštovanja“. Ovakva pohvala, opet, uspostavlja vezu između monaške Saṅghe i plemenite Saṅghe.

Naravno, jedno su ideali, a drugo goli život. Tako u Kanonu vidimo da često neki ne dobacuju do mere koju je Buda postavio kao kriterijum, pa srećemo monahe i čitave zajednice koji su „nemirni, nemarni i nadmeni“, za razliku od onih drugih. Buda kontrastira te dve vrste zajednica kao „plitku“ (uttāna parisā) i „duboku“ (gambhīra parisā):

„Monasi, postoje dve vrste zajednice. Koje dve? Postoji plitka zajednica i postoji duboka zajednica. A kakva je to plitka zajednica? U kojoj god zajednici da su monasi uznemireni, gordi, ćudljivi, brbljivi, naklapaju o svemu i svačemu, bez jasnog razumevanja, neusredsređeni, uma koji luta, neobuzdanih čula. Takva se naziva plitkom zajednicom.

A kakva je to duboka zajednica? U kojoj god zajednici da su monasi smireni, smerni, postojani, tihi, ne naklapaju o svemu i svačemu, jasnog uvida, usredsređeni, sabranog uma, obuzdanih čula. Takvo se naziva dubokom zajednicom. Zaista, monasi, postoje te dve vrste zajednice. Između te dve zajednice, bolja je duboka zajednica.” (AN 2:43)

Nasuprot povremenim „iskakanjima“ u vidu međusobnih svađa, pa čak i pretnje rascepa u nekim monaškim zajednicama, kada su se monasi „svađali i prepirali, bili duboko podeljeni, ranjavali jedni druge rečima kao bodežima“, Buda je visoko cenio Saṅghu marljivih bhikkhua kao „nenadmašno polje zasluga u ovome svetu“. Bio je naročito zadovoljan kad bi naišao na monahe koji „žive u slozi, poštuju jedan drugog, ne svađaju se, žive u miru zajedno kao mleko i voda da se pomešaju, jedan na drugog gledaju s ljubavlju“.

Naravno, monaška Saṅgha nije samo obezbeđivala najbolje moguće uslove za one koji imaju iskrenu nameru da vode duhovni život, već takođe služi kao plodno polje sa kojeg se „žanju zasluge dobrih dela“, kroz darivanje i obezbeđivanje četiri potrepštine za svakog monaha ili monahinju. Ona je služila i kao pouzdano sredstvo širenja Budinog učenja među nezaređenima i njihovo podučavanje kako da prevaziđu probleme sa kojima se susreću. Tako je stvorena veza uzajamnog pomaganja i zavisnosti, u kojoj svako ispunjava svoj deo obaveza. Nezaređeni s radošću i u svom najboljem interesu podržavaju dobro u ovome svetu kroz obezbeđivanje hrane, odeće, prenoćišta i lekova za zaređene, a zaređeni su u obavezni da stalnim pročišćavanjem svojih postupaka doprinesu da se u „onima koji nemaju poverenje, ono u njima rodi, a u onima koji ga već imaju, to poverenje još više osnaži“. Tako nezaređeni imaju još jedan zadatak, a taj je da što češće slušaju Dhammu, o njoj promišljaju i integrišu je u sopstveni život.

U naše vreme, na Zapadu, pojam Saṅgha je dobio i treće značenje, pa on tako obuhvata i zaređene i nezaređene, bez obzira na stepen njihove usavršenosti na putu probuđenja. Svi koji doprinose da jedna budistička zajednica, monaška ili laička opstaje, deluje i napreduje smatraju se tako delom Saṅghe. Tako je i sa Theravada budističkom zajednicom u Srbiji, koja je izrasla iz udruženja Srednji put. Budući da na Zapadu, pa tako i u Srbiji budizam tek hvata prve korene i vrlo mali procenat ljudi je spreman da se aktivnije uključi u rad, ovakvo šire razumevanje pojma Saṅgha ima itekako smisla. Naime, ljudi na Zapadu i na budizam, iako se radi o duhovnoj disciplini, gledaju kroz prizmu tržišta, u relacijama ulaganja i dobitka ili gubitka. To se vrlo lepo vidi u onim zemljama gde postoji veća populacija imigranata iz Azije. U tamošnjim manastirima se jasno uočavaju dve grupe: jedna su imigranti koji donose hranu i druge potrepštine u manastir ne očekujući ništa specijalno zauzvrat (jer već dobijaju radost/zasluge za učinjeno dobro delo) i većina Zapadnjaka, koja oseća obavezu da doprinese manastiru jedino ukoliko se u njemu organizuje recimo kurs meditacije u kojem su sami učestvovali. Ali kad se taj kurs jednom završi, ne osećaju potrebu da se u manastir vrate ili da ponude bilo kakvu vrste pomoći (makar zato da bi obezbedili da se naredni kurs održi). To je neka vrsta jasne tržišne transakcije: vi meni uslugu, ja vama novac.

Na taj način propuštaju priliku da nauče šta je to radost davanja bez očekivanja bilo čega specijalnog zauzvrat. A takva radost, koja ne zavisi od bilo čega spoljašnjeg, recimo od toga da li smo zadovoljni dobijenim (a obično nismo, jer očekivanja su uvek veća), makako to nama u ovom trenutku razvoja naše svesti izgledalo apsurdno, može biti veliki izvor energije i ohrabrenja u životu. Pokušavajući da nešto promeni u takvom pristupu i pruži šansu za učenje, naša Budistička zajednica se trudi da sve što radi, radi na osnovu dobrovoljnog rada i bez trgovine. To može izgledati kao nemoguća misija, ali prvo treba nešto probati, pa onda procenjivati je li moguće ili nemoguće. Ako je Saṅgha mogla da opstane na principima darivanja, a ne trgovine 2500 godina, možda ipak ima neke šanse 🙂 A da ima, evo pokazalo se i u Srbiji, jer smo opstali sve ove godine. I ne samo opstali, već rastemo iz dana u dan. Zato bih ovaj tekst završio i na taj način na posebno, počasno mesto postavio sve znane i neznane koji su na razne načine pomogli da Srednji put, pa onda i Budistička zajednica u Srbiji evo obeleži deset godina zvaničnog, a skoro 15 godina nezvaničnog rada i delovanja. Budući da sam učestvovao od početka, mogu reći da je to bilo jedno fantastično putovanje koje mi je pomoglo da se i sam razvijam kao osoba, ali i da dam makar mali doprinos zajednici u kojoj sam rođen i u kojoj ću, bože zdravlja, i da okončam 🙂


“Domaćine, pet je stvari poželjnih, dragih, prijatnih, ali se retko ostvaruju u ovome svetu. Kojih pet? Dug život je, domaćine, stvar poželjna, draga, prijatna, ali se retko ostvari u ovome svetu. Lepota… Sreća… Slava… Preporađanje na nebu je stvar poželjna, draga, prijatna, ali se retko ostvari u ovome svetu. To su pet stvari poželjnih, dragih, prijatnih, ali se retko ostvaruju u ovome svetu.

Za ovih pet stvari, domaćine, poželjnih, dragih, prijatnih, koje se retko ostvaruju u ovome svetu, kažem da se ne postižu molitvama i nadanjima. Kada bi tih pet stvari, domaćine, poželjnih, dragih, prijatnih, koje se retko ostvaruju u ovome svetu, bilo moguće postići molitvama i nadanjima, svako bi ih imao napretek.

(1) Domaćine, plemeniti učenik koji želi dug život ne bi trebalo da se moli za dug život, da se njime oduševljava ili da samo za njim žudi. Plemeniti učenik koji želi dug život treba da praktikuje put koji vodi ka dugom životu. Jer kada praktikuje put koji vodi ka dugom životu, on ga i odvede do dugog života i on dugo živi među božanstvima ili među ljudima.

(2) Domaćine, plemeniti učenik koji želi lepotu… (3) …koji želi sreću… (4) …koji želi slavu treba da praktikuje put koji vodi ka slavi. Jer kada praktikuje put koji vodi ka slavi, on ga i odvede do slave i on biva slavan među božanstvima ili među ljudima.

(5) Domaćine, plemeniti učenik koji želi preporađanje na nebu ne bi trebalo da se moli za preporađanje na nebu, da se njime oduševljava ili da samo za njim žudi. Plemeniti učenik koji želi preporađanje na nebu treba da praktikuje put koji vodi ka preporađanju na nebu. Jer kada praktikuje put koji vodi ka preporađanju na nebu, on ga i odvede do preporađanja na nebu i on boravi među božanstvima.

Onome ko priželjkuje dug život i zdravlje,
lepotu, nebesa i plemenito poreklo,
najveća zadovoljstva, jedno za drugim
mudri savetuju prilježnost
u činjenju dobrih dela.

Mudrac koji je prilježan,
osigurava sebi dve vrste dobra:
dobro vidljivo već u ovome životu
i dobro u životu što tek sledi.
Ko je postojan, te tako dobrim sebe obezbedi,
njega mudracem nazivaju.

Buda (Iṭṭha sutta, AN 5:43)


Ako čovek učini dobro,
neka to ponavlja,
neka u tome uživa.
Srećno je gomilanje dobročinstava.

Dhammapada, 118

Činiti dobro je lako: trenutak namerne ljubaznosti ili napora da se bude malo strpljiviji. A plodovi takvih povoljnih postupaka su ono što nas čini zadovoljnim. Otuda nas Buda ohrabruje da sebi damo dovoljno vremena i okusimo plodove dobrote. Po pravilu pripisujemo vrednost osobinama kao što je oštroumnost ili popularnost, ali ne bi bilo loše da proverimo i vidimo da li nas investiranje energije u takve karakteristike zaista vodi do zadovoljenosti. Nije li možda činjenica da nas uporni pokušaji da izađemo kao pobednik ili budemo zapaženi vode do više nezadovoljstva? Nemojmo pretpostavljati da je negovanje dobrote teško ili da nema nikakav efekat.

S ljubavlju
monah Munindo

Tajna dela vrline

Vežba: Svaki dan tokom nedelju (ili mesec) dana pozabavi se tajnim delom vrline. Uradi nešto lepo ili neophodno za druge, ali neka to bude anonimno. To delo može biti nešto sasvim jednostavno, kao što je da opereš nečije posuđe koje je ostavljeno u sudoperi, da pokupiš kesu sa pločnika koju je neko lakomisleno bacio, da prebrišeš kupatilo (iako to nije tvoj posao), načiniš anonimnu donaciju ili ostaviš čokoladu na stolu kolege sa posla.

Postavi svesku na policu kraj kreveta i koristi je da svako veče isplaniraš koje će tvoje tajno delo dobrote biti sutradan. Isto tako, možeš na strateškim tačkama u svom stanu zalepiti sličice raznih vilinskih bića da ti služe kao podsetnik.

Planiranje u tajnosti da uradimo nešto dobro za druge zaista nam donosi neočekivanu radost. Kada se jednom zaista posvetiš ovom zadatku, počneš da se osvrćeš oko sebe u potrazi za novim idejama i mogućnosti krenu da se umnožavaju. „Ah, sutra! Mogao bih da joj ostavim šolju toplog čaja na pisaćem stolu. ili bih mogao da na dvorištu očistim blato sa njenih planinarskih cipela.“ Osećaš se kao superheroj po imenu Tajna Vrlina, koji u tami noći krstari gradom i čini dobra dela. Ima uzbuđenja u nastojanjima da ne budemo otkriveni i, kao što neki ljudi priznaju, može biti malo i razočarenja kada nas ne otkriju ili se ne zahvale. Još zanimljivije je ostati nem kada nekom drugom zahvaljuju za dar koji smo mi anonimno ostavili.

Sve religije visoko cene darežljivost. Biblija kaže da su blagosloveniji oni koji daju nego oni koji primaju. U islamu postoje dve vrste dobrotvornog rada. Obavezno davanje za brigu o starima i siročićima, kao i dobrovoljno davanje, kao što su zadužbine i stipendiranje. Obavezno davanje pročišćuje ostatak naše zarade i smatra se oblikom molitve ili verskog obreda. Za dobrovoljno davanje u tajnosti se kaže da ima sedamdeset puta veću vrednost od javnog. Jedna od mojih omiljenih praksi je ono što zovem „metta vožnja“. (Metta je reč na pali jeziku za prijateljsku ljubav ili bezuslovno prijateljstvo. Ona takođe označava meditativnu praksu kojom razvijamo te kvalitete u sebi.) Dok vozim na posao, za svaku osobu pored koje prođem na putu – pešaka, biciklistu i posebno za nasilnog vozača koji žuri – kažem u sebi: „Neka budeš oslobođen stresa. Neka bude spokojan i srećan.“ Zaista ne znam da li ova moja tajna praksa njima pomaže, ali sigurno je da pomaže meni. Dani kojima vozim sa mettom uvek prolaze nekako lakše.

Naša ličnost je klupko sačinjeno od mnoštva strategija kako da druge navedemo da nas vole i cene, kako da dobijemo ono što želimo i kako sebe da učinimo bezbednim. Uživamo kada nam neko odaje priznanje, jer to je znak ljubavi, uspeha, sigurnosti. Zadatak za ovu nedelju ili mesec, svejedno, pomaže ti da proceniš svoju spremnost da uložiš napor u činjenje dobrih stvari za druge, a da nikada ne dobiješ priznanje za to. Zen praksa naglašava „pravolinijsko kretanje“ – živimo život na direktan način, zasnovan na onome što znamo da jeste dobra praksa, ne obazirući se na pohvalu ili kritiku.

Neki monah je jednom pitao kineskog zen učitelja Hui-haia: „Šta je kapija (u smislu ulaza ali i glavnog stuba nosača) zen prakse?“ Hui-hai mu je odgovorio: „Potpuno davanje“.

Buda je takođe govorio: „Kada bi ljudi znali koliki su plodovi davanja, ne bi uživali u bilo čemu što imaju, a da to ne podele sa drugima, niti bi otrov tvrdičluka trovao njihovo srce. Čak i ako je to njihov poslednji zalogaj, poslednji komadić hrane, ne bi u njemu uživali, a da  to ne podele sa drugima.“

Buda je takođe neprekidno ukazivao na vrednost darežljivosti, kao najefikasnijeg puta da se stigne do probuđenja. Preporučivao je da dajemo jednostavne poklone, čistu vodu za piće, hranu, prenoćište, odeću, prevoz, toplu reč, cvet. Na taj način čak i najsiromašniji ljudi mogu biti velikodušni, govorio je, dajući mrvice svoje hrane mravima. Svaki put kada nešto damo, bilo da je to nešto materijalno ili naše vreme (je li ono zaista „naše“?), oslobađamo se delića one tako pažljivo sakupljane i žestoko branjene privremene gomile stvari koju nazivamo „ja, mene, moje“.

Zaključak: Velikodušnost je najviša vrlina, a anonimno davanje je najviši oblik velikodušnosti.