Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
Buddhism a Theory or a Philosophy?
The enlightenment of the Buddha is
not a product of mere intellect.
the time of the Buddha there were many learned men in India who pursued
knowledge simply for its own sake. These people were full of theoretical
knowledge. Indeed, some of them went from city to city challenging anyone
to a debate and their greatest thrill was to defeat an opponent in such
verbal combats. But the Buddha said that such people were no nearer to the
realization of the truth because in spite of their cleverness and
knowledge they did not have true wisdom to overcome greed, hatred and
delusion. In fact, these people were often proud and arrogant. Their
egoistic concepts disturbed the religious atmosphere.
According to the
Buddha, one must first seek to understand one's own mind. This was to be
done through concentration which gives one a profound inner wisdom or
realization. And this insight is to be gained not by philosophical
argument or worldly knowledge but by the silent realization of the
illusion of the Self.
Buddhism is a righteous
way of life for the peace and happiness of every living being. It is a
method to get rid of miseries and to find liberation. The Teachings of the
Buddha are not limited to one nation or race. It is neither a creed nor a
mere faith. It is a Teaching for the entire universe. It is a Teaching for
all time. Its objectives are selfless service, good-will, peace, salvation
and deliverance from suffering.
Salvation in Buddhism is
an individual affair. You have to save yourself just as you have to eat,
drink and sleep by yourself. The advice rendered by the Buddha points the
Way to liberation; but His advice was never intended to be taken as a
theory or philosophy. When He was questioned as to what theory He
propounded, the Buddha replied that He preached no theories and whatever
he did preach was a result of His own experience. Thus His Teaching does
not offer any theory. Theory cannot bring one nearer to spiritual
perfection. Theories are the very fetters that bind the mind and impede
spiritual progress. The Buddha said, 'Wise men give no
credence to passing theories. They are past believing everything they see
Theories are product of
the intellect and the Buddha understood the limitations of the human
intellect. He taught that enlightenment is not a product of mere
intellect. One cannot achieve emancipation by taking an intellectual
course. This statement may seem irrational but it is true. Intellectuals
tend to spend too much of their valuable time in study, critical analysis
and debate. They usually have little or no time for practice.
thinker(philosopher, scientist, metaphysician, etc.) can also turn out to
be an intelligent fool. He may be an intellectual giant endowed with the
power to perceive ideas quickly and to express thoughts clearly. But if he
pays no attention to his action and their consequences, and if he is only
bent on fulfilling his own longings and inclinations at any cost then,
according to the Buddha, he is an intellectual fool, a man of inferior
intelligence. Such a person will indeed hinder his won spiritual progress.
Teaching contains practical wisdom that cannot be limited to theory or to
philosophy because philosophy deals mainly with knowledge but it is not
concerned with translating the knowledge into day-to-day practices.
Buddhism lays special
emphasis on practice and realization. The philosopher sees the miseries
and disappointments of life but, unlike the Buddha, he offers no practical
solution to overcome our frustrations which are part of the unsatisfactory
nature of life. The philosopher merely pushes his thoughts to dead ends.
Philosophy is useful because it has enriched our intellectual imagination
and diminished dogmatic assurance which closes the mind to further
progress. To that extent, Buddhism values philosophy, but it has failed to
quench spiritual thirst.
the chief aim of a Buddhist is to attain purity and enlightenment.
Enlightenment vanquishes ignorance which is the root of birth and death.
However, this vanquishing of ignorance cannot be achieved except by the
exercise of one's confidence. All other attempts, especially mere
intellectual attempts are not very effective. This is why the Buddha
concluded: 'These [metaphysical]questions are not calculated to profit;
they are not concerned with the Dhamma; they do not lead to right conduct,
or to detachment, or to purification from lusts, or to quietude, or to a
calm heart, or to real knowledge, or to higher insight, or to Nibbana.' (Malunkyaputta
Sutta - Majjhima Nikaya) In place of metaphysical
speculation, the Buddha was more concerned with teaching a practical
understanding of the Four Noble Truths that he discovered: what Suffering
is: what the origin of Suffering is; what the cessation of Suffering is;
how to overcome Suffering and realize final Salvation. These Truths are
all practical matters to be fully understood and realized by anyone who
really experiences emancipation.
Enlightenment is the
dispelling of ignorance; it is the ideal of the Buddhist life. We can now
clearly see that enlightenment is not an act of the intellect. Mere
speculation has something alien to it and does not come so intimately into
contact with life. This is why the Buddha placed great emphasis on
personal experience. Meditation is a practical scientific system to verify
the Truth that comes through personal experience. Through meditation, the
will tries to transcend the condition it has put on itself, and this is
the awakening of consciousness. Metaphysics merely ties us down in a
tangled and matted mass of thoughts and words.
Page Contents Next
Study and Practice Group, http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/
Layout: Chan Duc - Nguyen Thao
Update : 01-11-2002