“Buddhism is perfect and complete in itself” | Sunday Observer
Poson Poya Day falls on June 3

“Buddhism is perfect and complete in itself”

28 May, 2023

Following are excerpts from an interview with Theravada Bhikkhu Ven. Ajahn Suchart Abhijato Maha Thera of Thailand. The Maha Thera is well known across the globe for his effective Dhamma teaching methods and meditation practice.

Q: Should true Buddhists worry at all about those who criticise Buddhism or the Buddha for the sake of petty gains?

A: No, not at all. You cannot stop people from doing whatever they want to do. It does not hurt Buddhism whatever people do to Buddhism, because Buddhism is perfect and complete in itself and no one can change that. Buddhism is like the sun. You can do anything with the sun, you can criticise the sun, you can take advantage of the sun, but you cannot change the sun. The sun will always remain the sun. So is Buddhism. So you do not have to worry about what people say or do to Buddhism. They cannot change Buddhism.

Q: As per records the Bhikkuni Order was established by the Buddha after about five years of establishing the Bhikkhu order. But today the Bhikkhuni Order does not exist in many Buddhist countries even though the Bhikku Order is flourishing. What are the reasons?

Venerable Ajahn Suchart Abhijato Maha Thera

A: Lack of interest. Once there is no interest then nobody takes up the Ordination.

Q: As I have read the Paticca Samuppada or Dependent Origination consists of 12 links namely Ignorance (Avijja), activities(Sankhara), rebirth-consciousness (Viññana), mind and body (Nama-rupa), The six senses (Salayatana), six senses contact (Phassa), feeling (Vedana).craving (Tanha), grasping (Upadana), Kamma (Bhava) future birth (Jati) old age, and death (Jara-marana). Could you explain in simple language the 12 links and how one follows the other?

A: Well, this is how an unenlightened mind works. An unenlightened mind is being controlled by ignorance or avijja. Avijja is not knowing where the real happiness is. So such a mind (mind with Avijja) thinks that happiness is through sensual objects. So it (the mind) sends its thoughts towards the sensual organs first, towards the body by sending Vinnana which is the connector that connects the mind with the body. Vinnana connects to five sensual organs: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body. It can receive sensual objects when it comes to contact with the sensual organs. Once there is contact and when the mind is capable of receiving this sensual object then it will become a 'feeling'.

A feeling will arise once there is contact between sensual objects and sensual organs. When you see something, you get/ you start to have feelings - a good feeling or bad feeling depending on what you see.

If you see something you like, you will get good feelings, and if you see something you don’t like, you will get bad feelings. It is the same way that the other organs behave with other sensual objects and when there are feelings there are cravings (one gets cravings). If the object you like gives you good feelings, you want more of it, if it gives you bad feelings then you want to get rid of it. Once you have cravings, you have an attachment towards your craving. And once you have an attachment, you keep continuing to have this state of going after what you crave for/ what you are attached to. But once the body dies, then you have to go and take rebirth, to get a new body to continue with your quest for sensual objects. So this is how rebirth comes about. These are the 12 links of dependent origination work. This is my take on dependent origination.

Q: How would you define Buddhism? Why did you get attracted to Buddhism?

A: Well, Buddhism is the teachings of the Buddha who taught the way to get rid of mental suffering or forms of mental suffering such as stress, anxiety, fear, sadness, and discontent. This could be gotten rid of by following the teachings of the Buddha.

I became a Buddhist because I wanted to get rid of my stress or mental suffering. Once I started reading Buddha's teachings I realised that the Buddha knows the way to get rid of all mental suffering. I started to study Buddhism and started to apply what I had learned into my practice and I started to see that my mental suffering started to decrease and eventually no longer exists in my mind.

Q: Some non-Buddhists hold the view that Buddhism only focuses on Dukkha or suffering and as a result its followers fail to achieve material development or worldly comforts such as wealth. What is your view?

A: Well, the problem is the suffering. Suffering is like a mental disease. So one has to focus on getting rid of the mental disease because what is the use of having material comforts and wealth when you are still sick. When you are sick, you cannot use your material wealth for any happiness.

So what you want to do is to get rid of your illness. Dukkha is a form of mental illness that can be gotten rid of. And in order to get rid of mental suffering or Dukkha, one has to forego the pursuit of worldly comforts such as wealth for instance because going after worldly comforts can create mental suffering. So one needs to make sure that one does not create suffering unnecessarily by going after worldly comforts.

But your focus is on getting rid of the disease - the mental disease, the dukkha, or suffering. It is just like your body is sick. When your body is sick you do not go to work or go and look at the worldly comforts. Your priority then is to fix your body first or make the body well (cure the ailment.) It is the same way with Buddhism. Our priority is to take care of the mental sickness which is Dukkha or stress that appears in the mind all the time.

In order for us to be able to completely get rid of the sickness of the mind, we have to forego our pursuit of worldly comforts because pursuing worldly comfort is no way of decreasing the stress in the mind. So we have to stop this. Once the mind is cured the mind becomes happy. It can live a very simple life. It does not need any material comfort because it has mental comfort which is far better than material comfort or worldly comfort.

(Ven. Ajahn Suchart Abhijato Maha Thera was born on November 2, 1947. Having completed his degree in Civil Engineering at California State University, Fresno, USA, he returned to his motherland where he designed an ice cream parlour for a brief stint.

Quite soon, inspired by a Dhamma book, he decided to go in search of “true happiness,” to find inner peace through the practice of Buddhist meditation. He became a bhikkhu at the age of 27 and received ordination at Wat Bovornives in Bangkok on February 19, 1975, with Somdet Phra Ñanasarivara, the late Supreme Patriarch (Somdet Phra Sangharaja), as his preceptor.

Ven. Ajahn Suchart Abhijato Maha Thera resides in Wat Yansangwararam, Thailand.)