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This page offers articles about selected im­por­tant and somewhat con­tro­ver­sial Buddhist topics. At present four articles are avail­able for down­loading, others may follow.

An introduction into the basics of Buddhism is avail­able at the Books page of this web­site.

1. Non-Self and The Five Aggregates

The teaching about anattā (egolessness, non-self, no un­chang­ing, permanent, enduring core or essence to any­thing) is one of the pillars of Bud­dhism and is a doctrine which sets Bud­dhism apart from all other re­ligions as those, in one form or another, postulate some­thing perma­nent, a self or a soul.

The Buddha said that the self is not a reality. He did not say that there is nothing at all how­ever, but all there is, is just an ever chang­ing process of nature, consisting of an ever chang­ing body and an ever chang­ing mind. He labelled this process the Five Aggre­gates, no abiding self to be found in it.

The concept of non-self is of utmost importance for the under­standing of other core Bud­dhist principles like De­pend­ent Orig­ina­tion (the 2nd Noble Truth) including re-birth (who or what is re-born if there is no self?) or the doctrine of karma (which non-self receives the result of a karmic action com­mit­ted by a non-self?). A lot of confusion amongst Bud­dhists and people inter­ested in Bud­dhism is caused by misin­ter­preting the doctrine of anattā.
The Five Aggregates The Five Aggregates

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2. The Here-and-Now Interpretation of Dependent Origination - Paticcasamuppāda

In the first of the Four Noble Truths the Buddha states that human existence is governed by Dukkha (dis­con­tent­ment, suf­fer­ing); the second Noble Truth dem­on­strates the arising or the cause of Dukkha, sum­ma­rized in a teaching called De­pend­ent Origi­nation or De­pend­ent Arising or De­pend­ent Co- Arising, the Pāli ex­pres­sion is Paticca­sa­muppāda.

Various forms and dif­fer­ing explanations of this teaching are given today, the most fre­quent­ly dis­cussed ones being:
  • The Three-Lives-Theory is an explanation covering three life­times, a past, the present and a future life, that is, it is used to teach rebirth.
  • The Here-and-Now-Theory proclaims that De­pend­ent Origi­nation is concerned with the present life only, with the 'here and now', with the birth and death of the notion of 'self', happening count­less times each day.
Both theories aim to explain how Dukkha arises and how to put an end to it. At first a brief idea about the Three-Lives-Theory is given but the main focus of this paper is the Here-and-Now Interpretation.

According to the late Tan Ajahn Buddhadāsa, a prominent Thai Buddhist monk and proponent of the Here-and-Now- Theory, the arising of suf­fer­ing equals the arising of the notions of 'self', 'I', 'me' and 'mine' in the ignorant human mind. Resulting self­ish­ness does not only lead to personal calamities but to problems in society and to the pollution and exploi­tation of the natural resources of our planet too. The ignorant person thinks it is the same 'self' that is living life from the cradle to the grave; here an attempt is made to show how the mind constructs the concept of a permanent 'self' out of countless momentary 'selfs' arising with sense-contact.

Graph Dependent Origination - Paticcasamuppada Wherever possible the early Buddhist texts, the Nikāyas, have been used for reference. The relevant quotes are given either in the text itself or in foot­notes so that readers who do not have the Nikāyas at hand can follow up easily.

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3. Karma and Merit in (Thai) Buddhism

The topic is Karma and Merit in (Thai) Bud­dhism and thus we will define at first the meanings of the terms karma and merit before we in­ves­ti­gate in which ways they con­trib­ute to the unique form of Thai-Bud­dhism, but much of the ex­pla­na­tion is valid for other Bud­dhist coun­tries as well.

Karma is intentional action of body, speech and mind based on volition and will bring about a result (vipāka). Karma is not fate or destiny. Ac­cord­ing to the early Bud­dhist texts the result can ripen in this life or in a future life or even in sub­se­quent lives. This is the gen­er­ally accepted under­standing of the Law of Karma, the worldly level, on which the teach­ing re­gard­ing karma and merit is usu­ally of­fered and this seems to be the level most people prefer.

Complementary to the basic mundane inter­pre­ta­tion of karma and merit is the supra­mun­dane or spir­i­tual level of the doctrine which clarifies that the teach­ings on anattā (non-self) and karma do not nec­es­sari­ly con­tra­dict each other. The worldly ex­pla­na­tion helps people to behave prop­erly in this word while devel­op­ing their mind to a higher level; the tran­scen­den­tal teach­ing follows the Noble Eight­fold Path to the end of all suffering.

Monks on alms-round Food offerings to monks on alms-round

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4. Bhikkhuni Ordination Controversy in Theravāda Buddhism

The Pāli-word for a male monk is Bhikkhu. The female equiv­a­lent of a Bhikkhu is a Bhik­khuni. In Thera­vāda Bud­dhism it is widely but not unani­mously accepted that Bhik­khunis (nuns) need to be ordained in a dual ceremony by both the male Sangha and the female Sangha (com­mu­nity of monks and nuns). It is believed that ap­proxi­mate­ly 1,000 years ago the Bhik­khuni lineage died out and there were no more nuns left to ordain new Bhik­khunis and since then until recently Thera­vāda Bhik­khunis did not exist. At the end of the 20th century more and more women voiced interest to revive the Bhik­khuni Sangha and to receive full ordi­na­tion in Thera­vāda Bud­dhism again.

In a grand ordi­na­tion ceremony in 1998 Bhik­khuni ordi­na­tion in the Thera­vāda tradition was re-estab­lished. While this was acknowledged by the Bhikkhu Sangha in Sri Lanka the monks in other Thera­vāda Bud­dhist countries still do not accept Bhik­khuni or­di­na­tion.

After a short look at the his­tori­cal back­ground of Bhik­khuni ordi­na­tion in Bud­dhism, some arguments for and against a revival of female or­di­na­tion in Thera­vāda Bud­dhism will be pre­sent­ed and, as I'm living in Thai­land, we will spe­cifi­cally look at the situation in this country.



"In such cases, if there are [...] no senior dis­ci­ples among the nuns, ... no middle-ranking or junior nuns, ... no white-robed lay fol­low­ers, male or female, celibate or other­wise [...], then the holy life is not perfected."

Pāsādika Sutta, Digha Nikāya 29.12

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