Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Dhamma: Classification, Preservation and Propagation

Who makes a beginning in the classification of Dhamma? In the Abidhamma of the Buddha the first scripture was Dhammasangani i.e. Classification of Dhamma in which Matika worked as a classified table of mental constituents dealt with the whole system of the Abhidhamma.

Then the elder arahants introduced to classification, preservation and propagation in the Buddhist Synods. Venerable Ananda was well-versed in the doctrine (Dhamma). Likewise Venerable Upali was pre-eminent in the discipline (Vinaya). The Buddha's teachings were preserved and conserved in this manner from generation to generation of monks to present day.

It handed down until they were written on palm leaves in Ceylon some 500 years after the Buddha's parinibbana. All the Dhamma were recited to ensure its purity and authenticity. The teachings were eventually compiled and arranged into three classes, collectively known as Tipitaka. The Pali word, 'Tipitaka' literally means 'the three baskets'. These are:   

[1]  The first basket is the Sutta Pitaka, the discourses which contain many expositions of  Dhamma given to listeners who have a wide range on various occasions.  

[2] The second basket is the Vinaya Pitaka, the discipline which deals with rules and regulations laid down by the Buddha for monastic members of monks (bhikkhus) and nuns (bhikkhunis) as occasion arose.  

[3]  The third basket is the Abhidhamma Pitaka, the higher dhamma (Paramattha Desana) which on the whole discusses at length the psycho-philosophical aspects of teachings of the Buddha.

The Tipitaka is the most sacred literature of Buddhists. It surely contains the words of the Buddha as preserved through a period of time by his disciples who were arahants. The devoted and learned monks immediately committed his teachings word for word to memory. Thus the words of Dhamma were firmly preserved and were accurately in due course passed down although they are in oral form from teacher to pupil. Thus they ensured that the Dhamma would be conservative faithfully for posterity.

There is no doubt that arahants were highly intelligent and gifted with ability to remember whatever they had heard. The Buddha's teachings in the Tipitaka are also known as the doctrine of elders. That means the 'Theravada Buddhism'.

Nowadays, Tipitaka is translated and published in prominent languages and some versions are widely read from the Pali originals. To protect the Buddhism and its invaluable literature, the pious Buddhists had preserved and conserved for maintenance in future. Thus they do their utmost to carry out on giving recitation, discussion, listening to talks and lectures of Dhamma; to copy manuscripts on palm leaves; to inscribe on stones. This is an old traditional methods of maintenance. In modern age the advanced methods of preservation is made to print on paper in book forms and to record by the digital means, etc. The other ways are to open the meditation centres for practice of the Dhamma, and then to build pagodas, temples, monastic schools, Pariyatti Sasana Universities. These are the meritorious deeds of real Buddhists for promotion and propagation of Dhamma desana.

Buddha Sasanam Cirantitthatu!

Posted by Nyan U.

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