Dropping all defilements and finding that final Freedom in this very life is the main message of the most ancient Buddhist scripture- the Sutta-Nipata. Owning nothing and wanting nothing one of the hallmarks of Illumination. Serenity Here and Now is a faithful rendering of the last 47 suttas of the Sutta-Nipata. The archaic and abstruse verses have been rendered in a modern and readily intelligible idiom, with the result that this is a sheer delight to read. Some significant chapters are The wisdom of having no views, The head and its Splitting, Be mindful always and the Path to yonder shore.
Serenity Here and Now is the third and final volume of the trilogy on the Sutta-Nipata. The author's two preceding works titled Nirvana the highest Happiness and The first and Best Buddhist Teachings were both published by New Age Books.
Dr. Susunaga Weeraperuma, is not only a prolific writer-cum-pacifist striving for peace in a war-torn world, but also an ecologist who respects Mother Nature and admires her manifold beauty. He is a vegetarian solely out of compassion for animals. This yogi, who works with indifference to both fame and fortune, derive his energy from Hatha Yoga and Pranayam.
There is a general consensus among Buddhists that the Sutta-Nipata is probably the most ancient Buddhist scripture. "There is no older book in Buddhist literature than the Sutta-Nipata, and no earlier corpus of primitive Buddhist doctrine than it contains," wrote Sir Robert Chalmers in his Buddha's Teachings, being the Sutta-Nipata or Discourse collection (1932). Interestingly, Lord Chalmers, the eminent Pali scholar, was once the governor of Ceylon in British colonial times.
Serenity Here and Now consists of the final 47 suttas of the Sutta-Nipata along with my commentaries on some of them.
This new book is in fact a continuation of the preceding one called The first and best Buddhist Teachings: Sutta-Nipata selections and Inspired Essays (New Age Books, 2006) wherein its second half was solely devoted to discourses form the Sutta-Nipata.
I feel duty-bound to bring to the readers' attention that The firs and Best Buddhist teachings was in turn a continuation of Nirvana the highest happiness: Meditations on Buddhist Issues (New Age Books, 2006), which contained a few suttas from the Sutta-Nipata. Therefore all the above-mentioned works are actually a trilogy on the Sutta-Nipata, although the two books before Serenity Here and Now also included writings that I have described as inspired essays on various aspects of Buddhism.
By reading these scriptures one can catch a glimpse of some of the prevailing social customs, practices and belief at the time of the Buddha. That India is long past, although then, as now, the land was riven by bitter religious controversies, The Buddha lived during the sixth century before Christ. In India it was an epoch of highly developed values and moral standards. A great many were preoccupied with the eternal verities of life. This fact is evident from the subtle and involved questions that people put to the enlightened one.
The Buddha was usually treated with deference because of the general recognition that anyone who had managed to reach the very summit of spirituality was worthy of respect. Laypersons and ascetics were given to visiting the Buddha whenever it became known that he was in residence at a monastery. Even the proud and powerful ruling kings of that time paid homage to him, which indicated their realization that the sacred was somehow superior to the secular. The world of the Buddha, despite its many imperfections, stands out in contrast to our present world that is characterized by insatiable greed and materialism.
Over the centuries various philosophers and erudite pundits have laboriously speculated about the essence and nature of Nirvana. They did use a lot of words when they tried in vain to describe the Indescribable. But the Buddha, as he had actually attained that exalted state, used only an absolute minimum of words when he alluded to the Absolute:
"This incomparable island
Wherein there is neither
Decay nor death,
Which I name as Nirvana,
Is no other than
And wanting nothing"
One of the hallmarks of Illumination is "owning nothing and wanting nothing". Such aphoristic sayings abound in the Sutta-Nipata.
The total purification of oneself is indispensable for enlightenment. Not surprisingly, the importance of inner cleansing is a recurrent theme in the Sutta-Nipata. There are the taints or the defilements of the mind that must be cleansed away. Purification also entails the elimination from the mind of all thoughts and images. Then one discovers a certain emptiness. The state of emptiness defies description. For the wand of a better word we can call it nothingness.
At present, alas, our minds are thoroughly conditioned by innumerable factors. The conditioned mind habitually distorts perception, for it cannot help looking at things form a predetermined perspective or viewpoint. Only the mind that is totally devoid of viewpoints is capable of seeing with undistorted clarity. Such a mind has no philosophical, intellectual or ideological viewpoint whatsoever. Several suttas have dealt with this subject. The translations of these suttas can be found in the following chapters: Dropping all philosophical views, Can philosophy purify Us? The wisdom of having no views, Desist from Debates, What makes Us Qurrel? There is only one truth and munis eschew every view.
In the chapter Be Mindful always the Buddha thus advised Mogharaja:
"By looking at
Or the void
That characterizes the world,
And by dropping the view that
The 'self' exists,
One defeats death."
The view that Buddhism is a very cerebral religion is fairly widespread in the modern world. But the realization that abandoning the machinery of the mind preludes nothingness might come as a complete surprise to those who have the mistaken impression that Buddhism is comprehensible only to the very intellectual.
No religious writer should arrogate to himself the right to write with the authoritative air of papal infallibility. By the same token, no translator, unless he has himself attained the exalted state of an Arhat, can claim to have a perfect understanding of the Dharma. The writer of this book, along with countless other visible and invisible beings, is still a fellow sufferer in the stormy sea of Samsara. Therefore there is an inevitable element of subjectivity in all my interpretations, In addition, every statement in this work is open to criticism and correction. I take the blame for any error or misunderstanding on my part.
In what ways do my methods and approach to the subject differ from those of the mainstream translators of yesteryear?
First, I do not regard writing or translating as purely intellectual pursuits. For when I use the intellect for these purposes, my thinking, as is usually the case, is harmoniously blended with devotion (Bhatti) and faith (Saddha). I believe that one can have a good grasp of the Dharma by using the head in conjunction with the heart. It is significant that the Sutta-Nipata ended on a devotional note. For the holy ascetic Pingiya had the good fortune to hear the following final words of the Buddha:
"Just as Vakkalil,
Who was given to faith
And found release,
Along with Alavi-Gotama,
In the same way
May you be freed
And may you, Pingiya,
The realm of death."
Second, I have avoided falling into the trap of thinking that these ancient scriptures should be interpreted in a way acceptable to the Western Christian-orientated psyche. The pioneering translators were certainly dedicated to their work, but they had a liking for archaic forms of expression. Their practice of using words and phrases of bygone centuries confused many a modern reader. Probably they believed that certain honorific titles and sacred sayings were best indicated in a biblical style. I have, for instance, translated the term "Bhagava" as "Venerable", whereas some early translators with their theistic backgrounds preferred the term "Blessed one" as though the divine or some other external agency had given the Buddha the blessing of Nirvana. I have always felt uneasy whenever I came across the term "Blessed one", which raised several important questions. Was Nirvana a favour or a generous gift from God? Was the Buddha a blessed Son of God? Not by the wildest stretch of imagination could anyone conceive of the Buddha in theistic terms. Such theism is contrary to both the letter and the spirit of Goatama's teachings with its strong emphasis on attaining enlightenment by means of absolute self-reliance. That man is his own saviour is a distinguishing and basic Buddhist principle.
In this book, as in all my previous writings on the Dharma, I have tried my best to render the ancient scriptures in a contemporary idiom, remembering how old-fashioned language had put newcomers of Buddhism.
Third, since I am not a poet, I am not able to render the Pali stanzas into rhyming English poetry. But I am not sure if that could be done to perfection in any language. Fortunately, I have not tried to do that impossible task. However, in this translation the statements of the Buddha are in free verse.
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