Gotama Buddhism

The First Part

Chapter 1 : A Study of the Suttas in Pali Canon

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In my childhood, my parents used to take me to our family temple on the anniversaries of our ancestor's death and on the Autumn and Spring equinoxes to worship. After visiting the graves, we proceeded to the inner temple to attend a ceremony of monks reciting long, long Suttas in chorus and tolling a big bell. Not one word of it was the least bit understandable to me. And one could only endure the numb and ever hurting feet brought from sitting in formal ceremonial style on tatami mats. At last recitation would finish, but then came an everlasting preaching from the monks.

While majoring economics in college, I read a number of books on 'Buddhism'. Soon after my graduation the Japanese military took to war, attacking Pearl Harbour and other areas in South East Asia, especially China. With that course of events, I now no longer had any free time for reading Buddhist texts.

In 1945 Japan surrendered, and afterwards I worked hard for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of our industries. No thoughts about 'Buddhism' ever occurred in my mind in those hectic days.

In 1964 at the age of fifty-one, I decided to resign my post as the first Secretary-General of the Association of Petrochemical Industries in Japan in order to study the Suttas of 'Buddhism' in search of truth and sureness in life. (cf. Autobiography, by Takeshi Nagano, private publication).

I wished to first understand such 'Buddhist' Suttas, then popular nationwide, as (in Japanese) Hannnya-shinnkyo, hokekyo, jyodokyo, and Makashikan.

cf. the Sanskrit name of Hannnya-shinnkyo is Prajna-paramita-harday-sutra, hokekyo: Saddharmapundarika, jyodokyo: Sukhavati-Vyuha etc.. The Chinese name of Makashikan is Maha-amatha-vipasyana.

From early in the morning till late in the evening for ten years I read and studied those Suttas by myself, again and again. But neither wisdom nor understanding ever arose in me, being one who is unable to believe in anything.

In 1974, when I was sixty-one years old, I was informed that Nanden Daizokyo is available at the National Diet Library. (Nanden Daizokyo is the translated version of the Pali Canon, but is hard to read in its literary Japanese.) I went there every day for more than a week, reading selected ones through and bringing home copies of certain Suttas.

In 1882 the Pali Text Society was established in London and has since published English translations of the Pali Canon, making them available world wide.

The Pali Canon (Tipitaka, the three Buddhist Canon) consists of three parts;

1. Agama (Panca-Nikaya)      [sutta, discourse]
2. Vinnaya-Pitaka)           [discipline]
3. Abhidhamma-Pitaka         [analytic doctrine]

Its Sutta part includes;

1. The long length sayings    34 suttas
2. The middle length sayings 152 sttas
3. The kindred sayings      7762 suttas
4. The gradual sayings      9557 suttas
5. The short length sayings   15 suttas
                    total 17,520 suttas

Here included would be those which Gotama Buddha himself must actually have taught, those which someone other than him must have unilaterally interpreted, and those which such person himself must have taught. I wished to single out carefully those which Gotama Buddha himself must have taught.

I decided to concentrate on the following five focal points for study;

  1. What did Gotama Buddha search for when he ran away from home abondoning his beloved family?
  2. What did Gotama Buddha understand?
  3. How, or by what means, did Gotama Bauddha understand?
  4. What did Gotama Buddha preach right after his understanding?
  5. What did Gotama Buddha keep preaching in life?

Trying my best to obtain the answers for those five questions, I read more than a few reference books (see notes at the end of this chapter).

I learned from those reference books that Gotama Buddha certainly understood by way of practicing the Eightfold Path. But in those days I had no way of practicing the Eightfold Path myself without knowing what the elements actually meant, among them right sati (mindfulnes) and right samadhi (quiet state of mind) in particular. All I could have practiced at that time were a few such precepts as not to tell a lie or not to steal.

Neither did I know the true meaning of the realization Gotama Buddha is said to have ultimately attained ; whether he understood the destruction of ill (sufferings), or the ceasing of greed, anger, and foolishness, or the Four Truths, by practicing the Eightfold Path.

As I learned from those reference books, Gotama Buddha never preached to believe in Hotoke, the soul, one's former life, the afterlife, or the transmigration of the soul.

Brahmanism and 'Buddhism' preach such matters as metaphysics beyond control of human experience, religion, God, Hotoke (the idea that Buddha is a living human being who has understood the Four Truths), the soul, one's former life, the afterlife, and the transmigration of the soul. However, Gotama Buddha would never have preached these metaphysics, religion or myths.

The teaching of Gotama Buddha was no doubt the product of knowing how his own brain worked. I read a number of easy scientific works and began to think, therefore, that one of the keys to understanding what the Buddha taught could be through gaining fundamental knowledge in celebral science. (The scientific works I read are seen at the end of this chapter.)

While reading many of those books on original Buddhism and on science, I observed myself and tried hard to practice the feasible precepts of not telling a lie and not stealing, among others of the Eightfold Path.

What did Gotama Buddha actually teach us? Wishing to identify the core of his teachings, I studied those books hard and did my best to practice precepts of the Eightfold Path.

In terms of celebral development, his brain and mine would not be much different. In Gotama Buddha's view, there would be no reason why I could not achieve his realization.

I came to understand that if I learned the Pali Canon carefully enough, Gotama Buddha taught that it was possible for me to understand his teaching some day. I was shocked therefore, that according to those books written by authors who had not understood his teaching at all, that I could not understand the teaching even if I learned it.

What to do? I remembered the photo copies of Suttas of Nanden Daizokyo (Pali Canon in Japanese) I brought home from National Diet Library.

In 1979, Dr. Fumio Masutani published Agon Kyoten (Chikuma Books), a part of Pali Canon, in spoken Japanese.

I put on the table a set Suttas from the Pali Canon translated into literary Japanese and another set of Suttas in spoken Japanese side by side.

There I had nine sets of Suttas in literary and spoken Japanese and one Sutta in literary Japanese only. Those Suttas in literary Japanese were so hard to read that I put them on the shelf and began to peruse the nine Suttas in spoken Japanese and one Sutta in literary Japanese.

In Suttas often you find useless or redundant words in abundance. Let us delete those useless ones. It would take time and energy, but in this way the essential parts of Suttas would come out. (I call this work the inking-out method).

However, there was no guarantee that I would understand by this method. My efforts might turn out to be in vain. In any case however, I should finish the work.

The Nine Suttas in spoken language and one Sutta in literary language are as follows;

  1. <The All>
  2. <To be Understood>
  3. <Nibbana>
  4. <A Certain Monk>
  5. <Sinsapa>
  6. <Clansmen>
  7. <Penance and Work>
  8. <The Eightfold Path>
  9. <Ignorance>
  10. <Dawn (the parable of the sun)>

I picked up the Eightfold Path, the practice method of Gotama Buddhism. In particular, from the long length sayings and other indispensable Suttas for understanding Gotama Buddhism and from the kindred sayings, I started inking-out words, deleting the unnecessary ones in search of essence of the ten fundamental Suttas.

Eventually I finished the work. I wrote down my works on some fifty-three pages. They are called How to learn Pali Canon; Inking-out Method.

Attached to it is the list of essence of Suttas of Pali Canon. My hope is that you will carefully learn those fifty-three pages, and practice the inking out work yourself repeatedly from five to ten times.

Only after finishing this inking-out work do I recommend that you proceed to Chapter 2, Essence of Suttas. If you cannot do the inking-out method now, proceed anyway to Chapter 2, Essence of Suttas but please do not forget to practice the inking out method later five to ten times repeatedly.

I understood myself what Gotama Buddha understood, how or by what means he understood, what he preached right after his own understanding and then, what he kept preaching in life thereafter. I did it by organizing and classifying the essence of the Suttas obtained by inking out words.

I also understood the starting point of the ultimate (the highest) of and the practicing methods of his Teaching.

Let us proceed to Chapter 2, ESSENCE OF THE 10 SUTTAS IN THE PALI CANON.

cf. I read more than a few reference books, as follows, for exmple;

cf. a few reference books of science

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