THE HEART AWAKENED Three Essays by Eileen Siriwardhana Bodhi Leaves No. 93 Copyright 1983,
THE HEART AWAKENED
Bodhi Leaves No. 93
Copyright 1983, 1995 Buddhist Publication Society
BUDDHIST PUBLICATION SOCIETY
KANDY SRI LANKA
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DharmaNet Edition 1995
Transcription: Eileen Santer
Proofreading & Formatting: John Bullitt
This electronic edition is offered for free distribution
via DharmaNet by arrangement with the publisher.
P.O. Box 4951, Berkeley CA 94704-4951
* * * * * * * *
About the Author
Mrs. Eileen Siriwardhana graduated from the University of Ceylon in
English, Singhalese and Pali. She is now the Principal of Visakha
Vidyalaya, the premier Buddhist Girl's School in Colombo.
She is also a distinguished writer in Singhalese.
* * *
//Mudita// means appreciative joy at the success and good fortune of
others. Evaluation of achievement is a precursor to mudita, and
appreciation a component of mudita. Seeing the good in others and
learning to recognize and admire what good there is, is what mudita
tacitly implies. Laughter and exhilaration are not characteristics of
mudita. Mudita is joy and appreciation flowing quietly out of the
core of one's heart towards others like the waters from a spring
flowing outwards from the bowels of the earth. Spontaneous and
sincere participation in another's glorious hour is possible only when
the quality of mudita is developed to its fullest.
Genuine joy in the prosperity of others is indeed a rare quality.
The virtue of mudita may be best noticed at work in the joy of parents
over the success of their offspring, and in the genuine ecstasy of
teachers over the success of their pupils, particularly in the latter
situation when the threat of the younger eclipsing the older is always
imminent. While it is easy to practice mudita within the narrow
circle of one's family and friends, to identify oneself with the joys
and triumphs of outsiders requires deliberate effort. Yet the
capacity for doing so is rooted in man's nature. Smiling faces of
adults make children respond readily with their own smiles. This
potential in the child should be nurtured and activated by parents and
educationists. For the seed of mudita planted early in a child will
grow and blossom and bear fruit in his adolescence and in his adult
life. To some extent, man is a product of his environment -- with
this in mind, adults, parents, teachers and wardens who handle
children should be of a cheerful disposition and an appreciative
If a child lives with criticism,
He learns to condemn;
If a child lives with hostility,
He learns to fight;
If a child lives with ridicule,
He learns to be shy;
If a child lives with jealousy,
He learns to feel guilty;
If a child lives with tolerance,
He learns to be patient;
If a child lives with encouragement,
He learns confidence;
If a child lives with praise,
He learns to appreciate;
If a child lives with fairness,
He learns justice;
If a child lives with security;
He learns to have faith;
If a child lives with approval,
He learns to like himself;
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world.
Latent in man are both noble characteristics as well as vicious
tendencies. It is strange that the vices latent in man seem almost
natural and spontaneous, whereas the dormant virtues have to be
brought to the surface with great effort. As one advances in years,
activating and developing the potential of mudita becomes more and
more difficult -- though not impossible. Seeds will not take root in
hard and crusty soil. One has to loosen and soften the soil if one
expects shoots from seeds. In children the heart is tender and seeds
planted therein will take root early and grow fast. So the best time
to activate and develop the positive and saintly tendencies which lie
dormant in every human being is during the tender years. When a child
receives praise and approbation, he will naturally learn to give it to
others for he knows the joy of recognition and appreciation.
Envy and jealousy are the chief opponents of mudita, or appreciative
joy. These noxious qualities arise partly out of a lack of confidence
in one's achievements and one's capacity to achieve. Dislike, boredom
-- nuances of the Pali term //arati// -- may be considered as enemies
of mudita. The opposite sterling virtues which can vanquish these
enemies are loving-kindness, //metta//, and compassion, //karuna//.
Mudita is placed third in the listing of the Brahma Viharas, for
mudita is the natural outcome of the two preceding benign mental
states. Metta and karuna are the forces that urge one to alleviate the
sufferings of others with purely altruistic motives, expecting nothing
in return -- not even gratitude. What matters to the Buddhist is the
little bit of joy he has brought to another's heart by relieving him
of even a little bit of sorrow, of suffering. Little do people
realize how a kind word, a warm smile, a loving touch can act as a
balm to a sorrow-laden heart. We can now see how mudita becomes a
natural result of metta and karuna.
Too often people are much more ready to sympathize with the
misfortunes of others than to rejoice with them in their good fortune.
Where is a definition of a friend: "What are friends? Are they not
dear sweet people who abuse you behind your back and take an inward
deep pleasure in hearing of your faults and misfortunes?" We have to
take ourselves to task whenever we recognize these psychological
perversities within us, and with great effort try to eradicate these
unwholesome tendencies which seem to be deep-rooted.
We have to be honest with ourselves and look within. Whenever
traces of envy or jealousy enter our hearts, we should recognize the
emotion as one which is unwholesome. We should also make an effort
not to let it take hold of us. Let us ask this question: Why are we
envious? Because someone possesses something we do not. Why do we
not have that which we want, that which would give us joy? The answer
lies in our own //kamma//. In the light of the Buddha Dhamma no one
is to blame but ourselves. The greatest sorrow for a woman is the
inability to bear a child. Why accumulate more bad kamma by envying
those who have children? Unwholesome states of mind such as hatred
and anger are said to be the causes of infertility. So why promote
such a state in a future birth too by continuing that evil train of
thought? This line of thinking, of arguing, needs very great effort.
It is not easy. That is why the Buddha praised effort, //viriya//, as
a noble virtue. "If it were not possible to do good I would not tell
you to," said the Buddha. This mode of thinking helps to eradicate
delusion -- //moha//. The source of all unwholesome kamma is
ignorance of moha. When the vail of moha is lifted, one sees clearly
that craving is the source of all sorrows. Craving gives rise to
jealousy, envy, covetousness, avarice, greed -- all enemies of mudita.
Let the fertile woman not look down upon her less fortunate sister
who is denied the great joy of motherhood. Let not the one endowed
with beauty scorn her plain-looking sister. Let not the wealthy
insult the poor. After all, we must remember that this earthly
existence is but a short sojourn in our journey through Samsara. The
Buddha says there is no one on earth who has not in a previous
existence been a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, a child to us.
So let us suffuse the whole world with metta, with karuna and with
mudita. This is why the Brahma Viharas are described as //appamanna//
-- illimitables (all embracing). They are so-called because they find
no barrier or limit. They embrace all living beings.
Jealousy can poison a man's system, mar his character, and ruin his
social relationships. And what is life but a series of relationships?
It is only in death that we are alone. Today jealousy and greed for
power have poisoned the mind of the world. We now witness jealousy on
a global scale. We are destroying each other and our home -- the
earth. The situation at the present is so very grave that we can no
longer talk of individuals or groups or nations. We have to speak for
Earth. Carl Sagan, the eminent astronomer, exasperated by the wanton
destruction of our beautiful little planet and its resources asks,
"Who speaks for Earth?" The practice of mudita never seemed to be as
important as in the present day. The forces of evil seem to have been
unleashed in full measure in human hearts the world over.
Advances in science and technology have been of immense value to
man's material progress and development, but the negative by-products
of this progress are truly frightening. Destruction of natural
resources, pollution, unhealthy rivalry and dangerous competition have
reached such colossal proportions that life on earth is threatened.
Discoveries and inventions in the fields of science and technology
should be for a better and more comfortable life. But now many of
those discoveries' are a threat to life itself. It is indeed
depressing that the irony of this situation is not considered with
sufficient concern. The ills of the world are insidiously increasing
so that there is a growing sense of cosmic gloom and defeatism.
Man's predicament as perceived by the modern poet, George Barker, is
embodied in the following words:
When will men again
Lift irresistible fists
Not bend from ends
But each man lift men
Many men mean
Well: but tall walls
Impede, their hands bleed and
They fall, their seed the
Seed of the fallen.
See here the fallen
Stooping over stones, over their
Own bones, but all
Stooping doom beaten.
Whom the noonday wishes
Whole, whom the heavens compel,
And to whom pass immaculate messages,
When will men again
Lift irresistible fists
Leap Mountains, Laugh at Walls?
Looking on, dejected and dispirited, is not the solution. We have
to struggle to save ourselves and our planet. This is why
institutions like the United Nations Assembly exist. Though
satisfactory results may not always be forthcoming, the fact that
while a section is destroying, inventing weapons of hate, another
section of mankind is arguing, demonstrating, petitioning for peace.
As long as such forces opposing evil are in existence, there is hope.
This means that there is still sympathy and love in men's hearts for
their fellow beings. So we must be hopeful. Conflict is eternal;
conflict is natural. Conflict helps us to rediscover lost values. We
must not see only hatred in conflict. Conflict is the natural
prerequisite of a satisfactory solution.
A section of the world today is enveloped by the thick veil of
delusion. Hence their inability to see the truth. Failure to
perceive the Truth is delusion. So it is with persistent effort and
enduring patience that those who wish to be noble and serviceable must
sublimate themselves and serve humanity, both by example and by
precept. The cultivation of mudita and the practice of this virtue
can relieve humanity of the suffering it has brought upon itself.
Those with right understanding must by personal example work out
salvation for themselves and for their fellow beings.
Diligent practice of mudita will make a person more amenable,
flexible, and understanding. He will learn to live outside himself.
He will experience a new kind of happiness, the joy of sharing. This
virtue will elevate him to eradicate the cankers of jealousy and
egoistic craving; "We" and "ours" will be substituted for "me and
"mine." Wholesome camaraderie will build up, and he will gradually
embrace the whole world with loving-kindness -- //sabbe satta bhavantu
sukhitatta//. The ego will gradually disintegrate, and he will gain
insight into //anatta//, the Buddha's central doctrine. The fetters of
attachment to self will break first, and with it all other fetters of
attachment, which will lead him gradually toward renunciation.
The Buddha advocates the sharing not only of material resources, but
of spiritual resources as well. The transferring of merit to our dear
departed ones is a truly beautiful sharing. Our loved ones who are no
more with us physically feel such a sense of joy in the thought that
they are not forgotten; the joy that accrues to them by our
enlightened acts is //anumodana//.
Mankind is on the eve of a nuclear war. Sure and certain
destruction will be the fate of the human race if war breaks out. Now
is the hour to muster benign forces within the human heart on a global
scale. The virtues of metta, karuna, mudita and upekkha must be
practiced to combat the degrading forces of greed and hatred which
cause dangerous divisions. Once the sparks of divinity in men's
hearts are released, all divisions of creed, colour, religion and race
will recede into insignificance. Then only one creed will be in
evidence: the creed of humanity. So let us activate, cultivate, and
develop the sublime qualities -- Brahma Viharas. These powers hidden
within the human heart are yet untapped, yet it is through these
powers that humanity can be saved. This seems to be the way -- the
only way out of the present entanglement.
"The inner tangle and the outer tangle --
This generation is entangled in a tangle.
And so I ask Gotama this question:
Who succeeds in disentangling this tangle?"
The answer of the enlightened One given centuries ago embodies the
solution to the present tangle. It is, in fact, the answer to every
generation -- past, present, future. "He who succeeds," says the
Buddha, "in disentangling this tangle, is the wise man, established
well in virtue, who has developed consciousness and understanding."
* * *
Metta is a sincere wish for the welfare and genuine happiness of all
beings, without exception. It means that which softens one's heart --
a friendly disposition. "Just as a mother protects her only child
even at the risk of her own life, even so should one cultivate
loving-kindness towards all living beings." It is not the passionate
love of the mother that is stressed here, but her sincere selfless
wish for a genuine welfare of her child.
Metta transcends all boundaries of caste, class, race and religion.
It is limitless in size and range (//appamanna//); it has no barriers,
Think of the number of instances during a day when your actions are
colored by discrimination. When your unfortunate servant boy
accidentally breaks an article, you shout at him. When your own child
does it, you tolerate it. That servant boy is also somebody's child
who, through bad kamma, has come under your roof to do your menial
work -- to do your bidding.
When you strike a blow across your dog's back for trampling your
flower bed, do you realize the unwholesome state of your mind at the
moment of such action? You may even be a person who recites the
gathas and the suttas, who goes to the temple, who observes the Eight
Precepts, who listens to sermons, who gives alms. But at the moment
of such discriminating actions you have turned away from the Dhamma.
At some time you may bide the time, waiting for an opportunity to
take revenge on someone who has slandered you. During that period of
waiting -- please think of the Buddha. Enact in your mind's eye the
story of Cinca Manavika or the courtesan Sundari. Then your little
embarrassments and heartaches will fade into insignificance.
Metta is described as a divine state (//brahma-vihara//) which
cannot co-exist with anger or hatred. "Hatreds never cease through
hatreds in this world. Through love alone they cease. This is an
eternal law." Goodwill, loving-kindness, benevolence and universal
love are suggested as the best renderings of the Pali word //metta//.
A point to be clarified here is that metta is not synonymous with
ordinary affection. The world cannot exist without mutual affection.
Between parents and children, between husbands and wives, between
teachers and pupils, between friends, exist varying degrees of
affection. This affection is natural, and metta has to be cultivated.
A benevolent attitude is the chief characteristic of metta. One who
practices metta is constantly interested in promoting the welfare of
others -- not only in his family and friends. Such a person is
sincere when he says: "May all beings be happy."
Another very important point that should be clearly understood is
that in exercising metta, do not ignore yourself. How often do you
say, "Oh, I got so angry with myself" or "I can never forgive myself"?
Some hasty words or actions on your part fill you with resentment
towards yourself. Remorse, though a fine corrective, is an extreme
form which can bar your progress when indulged in again and again.
There are times when you may even make yourself mentally and
physically ill. So the most important person to make friends with is
Remorse, regret, diffidence and hopelessness are negative
tendencies the existence of which can never result in a friendly
disposition towards oneself. Metta is a positive quality. Unless you
feel friendly toward yourself, you cannot be friendly towards others.
To the world outside you may appear to be well-disposed towards others
and give the impression of possessing a benevolent, magnanimous
nature. But be aware of yourself. Be honest with yourself. Honesty
is the starting point towards self-purification.
"To thine own self be true
And it must follow as the night the day
Thou canst not be false to any other man."
All men have their frailties. What is meant by making friends with
oneself does not mean that we expect to find within ourselves only
that which is good and perfect. We talk about understanding people.
Let us understand ourselves first. Let us recognize our strong points
and feel satisfied about them. Let us recognize our failings, and
strive towards lessening or eradicating them.
"Whoever looks for a friends without imperfections will never
find what he seeks."
"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter.
He that has found one has found a treasure."
"He who throws away a friend is as bad as he who throws away his
Let us not throw away our lives by throwing away that friend that is
"I" or "myself" should be the central or starting point. Metta
radiates from oneself to others, so it is very important to feel a
sense of goodwill, friendliness, well-being towards one-self. This is
a subtle point which has to be clearly understood.
The Buddha radiated metta equally towards his adversary Devadatta,
Yasodhara his royal wife, and Patacara the demented woman, his royal
father Kind Dusshodana and Sopaka the humble low-caste youth.
Metta then should be extended towards friend, foe and mere
acquaintances alike. The identification of oneself with all beings
(//sabbattata//), making no difference between oneself and others is
the culmination of metta. The ideas of "me" and "mine" are building
blocks of barriers. Metta dissolves barriers and loosens all
constraints. With the diligent practice of metta, division evaporates
and humanism is realized. Such a mind is free from ill-will, and this
freedom is bliss or //sukha//.
Ill-will is the antithesis of metta. Anger, hatred, aversion are
related qualities. Metta cannot co-exist with such unwholesome
attitudes. Disparaging, condemning and belittling others is possible
only through ill-will. Pointing out another's faults with the
intention of leading him towards good does not mean a lack of metta.
Parents, teachers and elders often have to resort to various methods
of correction and reform where the young are concerned. But one has
to be very watchful when one is engaged in such activity. The motive
has to be analyzed carefully. Elders sometimes react in anger. At
such moments one must question oneself: Was it to avert a disaster to
the other that one acted so? Or was it merely giving vent to one's
own anger which oppressed one?
A mother who could not convince her son that the path through the
jungle was unsafe and that he should take a safer route exclaimed in
despair, "May a bear maul you!" The son departed and the mother
radiating metta towards her son, hoped and prayed that no harm should
befall him. Though the jungle was infested with wild animals, the
loving-kindness which radiated from the core of the mother's heart
towards her son was a weapon against the fierce jungle beasts. Metta,
one has to understand, is a powerful weapon against evil -- and
protects one from many pitfalls in life.
Metta is a constructive healthy force with the power of combating
hostile influences. Just as anger can produce toxic effects on the
system, benign thoughts can produce soothing health-bringing physical
effects. Many instances in the Buddha's life illustrate the fact that
the peaceful thought vibrations of the Buddha produced salutary
effects, so much so that the intoxicated elephant Nalagiri and the
wild Angulimala were completely subdued. The magnetic power of metta
is indeed deeply rewarding. Metta has a liberating influence on the
one who possesses it and on the one to whom it is extended.
In our day-to-day lives with its trials, tribulations and
complexities, the art of being friendly is fast disappearing. We act
like automatons. We are so wrapped up in ourselves, in our own
affairs, that we hardly think it is necessary to spend time over
anything that is not connected directly to ourselves and our affairs.
We must teach our young the value of a friendly disposition. We must
do it by example more than by precept. In our homes, in our schools,
in our places of work, if this simple quality of friendliness is
allowed to pervade the atmosphere, our corner of this earth can be a
little haven -- a true home.
Let us fill our hearts with metta, and let us make our hearts a home
where peace and love and friendship will dwell.
"I read within a poet's book
A word that starred the page:
'Stone walls do not a prison make
Nor iron bars a cage!'
Yes, that is true, and something more,
You'll find wherever you roam
That marble floors and gilded walls
Can never make a home.
But every home where Love abides
And Friendship is a guest
Is surely home, and home sweet home
For there the heart can rest."
* * *
GETTING HOLD OF MYSELF
I told myself never to do certain things:
Never to fly into a rage when things have gone wrong,
But something is simmering inside me;
Then I try to get hold of myself
But I can't!
Never moan and lament over loss and disaster,
But something is writhing inside me;
Then I try to get hold of myself
But I can't!
Never be elated over triumphs and victories,
But something is dancing inside me;
Then, too, I try to get hold of myself,
But I can't!
Exasperated, I try and I strive
But I can't!
I just can't get hold of myself,
If you can, please let me know how.
Yes, I can.
And you can, too,
If you turn to the Buddha.
"Irrigators lead the waters.
Fletchers bend the shafts.
Carpenters bend the wood.
The wise control themselves."
Just as a water-course is dammed and directed through channels
towards a chosen direction, so too the mind must be bent and
consciously directed towards good, towards virtue, towards
To amass wealth, to dig up the treasures from the bowels of the
earth, man makes laborious efforts and spends enormous sums of money,
but to dig up the invaluable treasures of the mind, man makes little
or no effort. But to make the effort man has first to realize, he has
first to understand the mysterious and mighty potentialities hidden
within his mind.
On the other hand, if, though well aware of the natural destructive
forces within him, man makes little or no effort to curb them, he
thereby causes untold misery to himself and to others.
Latent in man are both saintly characteristics and destructive
tendencies. It is strange that too often the vices latent in man seem
almost natural and spontaneous, whereas the dormant virtues have to be
brought to the surface with great effort. It is worth noting that
every vice possesses its opposite, a noble virtue which may not appear
to be natural and automatic, yet which lies within the range of every
And so man lives enveloped in miseries of various types. Man is
never happy, never satisfied, always frustrated, always wanting
something more, something new. His mind is constantly in turmoil, and
the misfortune is that he thinks that this has to be the natural
condition common to all. This is delusion, or //moha//.
"Blind is the world.
Few are those who clearly see.
As birds escape from a net,
few go to the blissful state."
It is a pity that man does not realize that all these fears,
sorrows, phobias and miseries are mind-made -- and can be eliminated.
A man can live in a constant state of bliss and joy devoid of
unnecessary sufferings and live life to its fullest if only he would
live the word of the Buddha, for the word of the Buddha embodies
peace. This is why the arahats often uttered:
"Calm in mind, Calm in speech, Calm in deed, who rightly knowing
is wholly freed, perfectly peaceful and equipoised."
A desert traveler with parched lips and burning soles will be
gladdened on hearing that an oasis is not far off. But he will not
experience real joy until he tastes its waters with his lips, and dips
his soles in the cool waters. In like manner the word of the Buddha
gladdens our hearts, but we should not stop until we have tasted the
bliss of that noble state which is the panacea, the only panacea, for
all the ills of the world.
"There is no medicine comparable to the Dhamma. Taste of it.
Drink it, O monks."
The Dhamma is to be lived, not merely to be read about or listened
to. Listen. Think. Practice.
In our day-to-day lives, in the course of being engaged in our daily
chores, we should think of the innumerable times when we have
neglected the word of the Buddha. Yet the incense chamber of the
Buddha should be created within our hearts, and that fragrance must
pervade every thought, every word, every action of our waking life.
"Purify your mind," said the Blessed One. Now think of the
numberless unwholesome thoughts that daily pollute the mind. We speak
and we act impulsively, rashly. Our words and our actions are often
harsh; we cause pain of mind to others, which in turn brings on
remorse. A whole train of unwholesome thoughts are unleashed as a
result of our inability to control our mind. We get angry. That anger
even results in chemical changes in the body which can be injurious to
our health, and to the well-being of others. And then we repent for a
lifetime a few words uttered impulsively.
So, realizing the unhappiness we bring upon ourselves and the
suffering we cause others, we must first understand and accept the
fact that we are not on the right path. What is the remedy? Do not
let the mind drift. Take hold if it. Cultivate it. What is
cultivation? It is meditation. It is a process of mind cleansing.
What are the steps leading to purification of the mind, which is the
heart of the Buddha's message?
1. To know the mind -- that is so near to us; and is yet so
2. To shape the mind -- that is unwieldy and obstinate, and yet
may turn to pliant.
3. To free the mind -- that is in bondage all over, and yet may
win freedom here and now.
-- "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation,"
by Nyanaponika Thera
To know the mind one has to watch it from moment to moment. Take a
few minutes off your daily chores and sit down in a quiet place and be
mindful of your thoughts. Watch carefully the thought processes
coursing incessantly through your mind like the rising and falling
away of the ocean waves, but continuous -- in a never-ending flow they
arise and they fall away. Recognize each thought as pleasant or
unpleasant, as the nature of the thought may be. We have to be honest
with ourselves. We must recognize jealousy as jealousy, know it to be
unwholesome, cast it aside and substitute its antidote or opposite --
which is appreciative joy or mudita.
We can gradually increase the period of watching by a few minutes
each day. After some time we will find that when watching and
perceiving, all shades and nuances of thought pass through our mind.
With practice, this process will become automatic, natural and
effortless, even while we are engaged in our daily activities. This
is as it should be -- a very desirable condition for our well-being,
for then we will be constantly mindful. An action performed with
mindfulness will be a skillful action. The result, or //vipaka//, of such
action will be pleasant and good. So constantly our mind will be
suffused with satisfaction, joy and bliss.
Let us look at a few of the common unwholesome states which too
often pollute our minds:
Anger is a destructive vice which can be subdued with
loving-kindness or metta.
Aggression is another vice that is responsible for much human
suffering, errors and atrocities. Its antidote is compassion or
Jealousy poisons one's system. It has a corroding effect on a
person like rust on metal. It will destroy a person. Appreciative
joy or mudita is the remedy.
There are other universal characteristics that upset the equilibrium
of man. They are attachments to the pleasurable and aversion to the
non-pleasurable. The opposite force is equanimity, or //upekkha//,
which alone can combat these two subtle but most prevalent defilements
ever present in the mind.
Impregnated in the vices mentioned are the germs of a dreaded
disease which seems to be taking its toll of many human lives today.
Self-destruction, depression, a sense of hopelessness, despair, gloom,
pessimism, meaninglessness of life, are some of the symptoms of this
dreaded disease which leads to so much unhappiness. The disease is
The cure for the disease is the substitution of the opposite virtues
for each of the latent vices. This will lead to the recognition of
the beauty of life, its worthwhileness, its purposefulness. The
substitution of wholesome pleasant thoughts is a recognized form of
mental therapy. These virtues tend to elevate man. If cultivated
with diligence, man will realize that the earth is such a beautiful
place, that human life is noble, and that it is still possible to gain
peace for oneself and for others.
* * * * * * * *
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TITLE OF WORK: The Heart Awakened (Bodhi Leaves No. 93)
AUTHOR: Eileen Siriwardhana
AUTHOR'S ADDRESS: N/A
PUBLISHER'S ADDRESS: Buddhist Publication Society
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