*TEACHING THE BUDDHA-DHAMMA*
by Sayagyi U Chit Tin
The Buddha hesitated after he attained full Awakening. He saw
that it would be difficult to those in the world who delighted in sensual
pleasures to attain the knowledge which meant the calming of all the
habitual tendencies, renouncing all attachment, the destruction of
craving, attaining dispassion, cessation, Nibbana. It would be wearying
and troublesome to teach what he had attained if others did not understand
Brahma Sahampati was aware of what the Buddha was thinking.
According to the commentaries, this Brahma had become a Non-Returner
under the Buddha Kassapa and was reborn in the Pure Abodes (Suddhavasa) of
the Brahma planes. Brahma Sahampati realized that the world could be lost
if the Buddha did not teach others the way to Nibbana. So he went to the
Buddha and requested that he teach. "There are those who have few
defilements," he said, "who are going to ruin through not hearing the
Doctrine (Dhamma). They will be the ones who fully understand the
After being requested to teach three times, the Buddha, out of
compassion for the world, surveyed the world with the eye of an Awakened
One. He saw that there were all sorts of beings and that many of them
would not understand what he had to teach. There were a few, however, who
would be able to understand. Seeing this, the Buddha accepted the
invitation to teach.
Waiting to be requested before teaching is a tradition which is
still followed today. Trying to force the Buddha's Teachings on unwilling
people would produce the very result of wearisomeness which made the
Buddha hesitate to teach. This does not mean that we remain completely
passive, however. Whenever we know that there is some potential for
understanding in another person, we can encourage that person to request
to be taught. We will not have the ability of a Buddha to see for certain
a person's potential, but the more we experience the truth, the better we
will be able to judge others and find the right occasion and the right
The Buddha was able to survey the world and see who were the best
people to teach first. So he went first to the five ascetics who had
helped him during the beginnings of his struggle to attain Awakening.
Next, he taught the young man Yassa and fifty-four of his friends. All
sixty of these men attained Arahatship and became bhikkhus. Now that they
had understood, the Buddha sent them out to teach the Doctrine.
//Atha kho Bhagava bhikkhu amantesi: "Muttaham bhikkhave sabbapasehi ye
dibba ye ca manusa. Caratha bhikkhave carikam bahujanahitaya
bahujanasukhaya lokanukampaya atthaya hitaya sukhaya devamanussanam. Ma
ekena dve agamittha. Desetha bhikkhave dhammam adikalyanam majjhe kalyanam
pariyosanakalyanam sattham savyanjanam kevalaparipunnam parisuddham
brahmacariyam pakasetha. Santi satta apparajakkhajatika assavanata
dhammassa parihayanti, bhavissanti dhammassa annataro. Aham pi bhikkhave
yena Uruvela yena Senanigamo ten' upasamkamissami dhammadesanaya" ti//.
Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus: "Bhikkhus, I am released
from all snares, both divine and human. Bhikkhus, you are also released
from all snares, both divine and human. Go, bhikkhus, and wander for the
benefit and happiness of many people, out of compassion for the world, for
the welfare, benefit, and happiness of Devas and men. Two (of you) are not
to go by the same (path). Bhikkhus, teach the meaning and detail of
the Doctrine that is good in the beginning, good in the middle, good in
the end, fulfilled in its entirety, wholly pure. Make known the holy
life. There are those who have few defilements, who are going to ruin
through not hearing the Doctrine. They will be the ones who fully
understand the Doctrine. And I, bhikkhus, will go to Uruvela, to
Senanigama, to teach the Doctrine.
The spread of the Buddha's Teachings has continued down to today. It
has spread all over the world. Those of us who teach in the tradition of
Sayagyi U Ba Khin are acutely aware of the importance of our mission. It
must be carried on through compassion for others. It is for the benefit
and happiness of all those who are able to give it a sincere trial.
The Buddha's instructions are to teach the meaning and detail of the
Doctrine which is good in the beginning, the middle, and the end. Ashin
Buddhaghosa discusses the terms in some detail in //The Path of
Purification//. He gives a number of explanations for the fact that the
Doctrine contained in the texts is good in the beginning, the middle, and
First of all, each verse and each discourse, whether it contains one
subject or several subjects, is good. The Teachings will attract those who
are ready to be taught, as they are unequivocal in meaning and stand to
reason in terms of cause and effect and in the examples given. The
conclusion of a discourse will inspire faith in those who hear.
We can see the truth of this through our own experience. The Buddha
was very clear in his discourses. When he used a simile to illustrate what
he was teaching, he carefully explained each element in it. He did not
encourage blind faith based on emotional attachment to a teacher or
emotional reactions to attractive ideas that remained vague and open to
interpretation. The Buddha said what he had to say in clear language, and
invited those he taught to find out the truth through their own
Ashin Buddhaghosa then explains the beginning, middle, and end of
the doctrine in terms of the Dispensation (sasana). In an earlier
passage, he explained these in terms of morality, concentration, and
wisdom (sila, samadhi, panna). In the passage we are discussing, he
presents these three steps in two ways. The first way is the three steps
most appropriate for those who have renounced lay life and gone forth. For
them, the beginning will be morality. The middle will be the calm
(samatha) attained through high levels of concentration and insight
(Vipassana) which leads to the Path and Fruition State. The end or goal is
The second way is more appropriate for laypeople. Its beginning is
morality and concentration, its middle is insight and the Path, and its
end is the Fruition state and Nibbana.
This second way sums up the approach we use in meditation courses in
the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin. The beginning is the firm foundation
on which we can build. Through developing morality and concentration we
prepare ourselves for developing insight. The degrees of morality and
concentration will not be as high as is usual in the case of bhikkhus or
bhikkhunis, due to the limitations of lay life. Fortunately for us, it is
possible to develop insight even though the highest levels of morality and
concentration have not been attained. So we can aspire to the goal of
Nibbana which is to be experienced through the Paths and Fruition States.
In his commentary on the Digha-nikaya, Ashin Buddhaghosa mentions
the three steps of morality, concentration, and insight; and in passages
quoted from the canon, some other aspects of the Doctrine are included.
The beginning can be understood in terms of the beginning of skilful
mental states and this includes morality of great purity and right
view. Right view is very important because if we have no confidence in
the good results that come from moral living and from working for
liberation, we will not make any effort. A tenacious wrong view can be the
most dangerous enemy, especially if cause and effect are denied. The
middle can be understood to mean the Middle Path, and this Path is the
Noble Eightfold Path which leads to the ultimate goal. The end can be
understood to mean the fruit of leading the holy life and this fruit
is the attaining of Nibbana.
Ashin Buddhaghosa shows in //The Path of Purification// that the
beginning, middle, and end of the Doctrine can be demonstrated through the
Triple Gem: the Buddha discovered the truth, the Dhamma, which is the
well-regulated Doctrine. The Sangha -- that is to say, the community of
those who realize the Buddha's Teachings -- has entered the Noble Path
leading to experiencing the truth.
This is the aspect of the Doctrine we depend on so that we will be
able to work ourselves. These three aspects are our refuge and protection.
Without the Buddha to discover the truth of the Dhamma, it would remain
hidden. Without knowledge of the Dhamma, we would never be able to attain
release from suffering. Without the Sangha to practise and maintain the
Teachings, we would not be able to learn of the truth or find those who
can guide us.
Another way of understanding the three aspects of the Dhamma is
through the types of persons who achieve the goal: there are Teaching
Buddhas, who discover what can be attained and teach others to do the
same; there are Pacceka Buddhas, who reach the goal but do not have
the ability to put others fully on the path; and there are disciples of a
Teaching Buddha who, through practising his Teachings, are able to attain
This explanation reminds us that the Teachings of a Buddha are not
always available. For some Buddhas, all the disciples ready to reach the
goal encounter those Teaching Buddhas during their lifetime and the
Dispensation does not continue afterwards. If this had been the case with
Buddha Gotama, we today would not be able to enter the Noble Eightfold
Path. We must make sure that we do not miss this opportunity and that we
make it available to as many others as possible.
Finally, Ashin Buddhaghosa speaks of the Dhamma as entailing
listening in the beginning, practising in the middle part, and attaining
the goal in the end. Through listening to the Doctrine, we are able to
suppress the hindrances. Through practising we attain the bliss to be
gained through the serenity of concentration and of insight. Once the
final goal is achieved, we will attain the state of perfection.
In his commentary on the Anguttara-nikaya, Ashin Buddhaghosa
gives another approach. The three steps can be redefined depending on how
far we have come on the path. At the lowest level of achievement, the
beginning, middle, and end will be morality, concentration, and insight.
At the next level, they will consist in concentration, insight, and the
Path. Higher still, they include insight, the Path, and Fruition. At the
highest level, we find the Path, Fruition, and Nibbana.
In addition, he gives the aspects of the work which should be
combined: morality and concentration in the beginning; insight, and the
Path in the middle; and Fruition and Nibbana in the end.
The Buddha says that the meaning and detail of the Doctrine should
be taught. This means that both the spirit and the letter of the Dhamma is
to be included. Each of these aspects compliments the other. If we
approach the texts looking for the meaning, we will not get lost in
technical analysis of the words. If we learn more and more about the
language of the texts, we will understand the meaning better.
The Buddha, of course, gave these instructions to disciples who had
already realized the final goal. For those of us who have not fully
understood, it will be necessary to remember that it is possible to
misunderstand. We must keep an open mind, not hesitating to re-examine
both the meaning and the letter of the teachings. Most importantly, we
must put the teachings into practise if progress is to be made.
Most of us study the teachings in translation. So we should keep in
mind the limitations in translating from one language to another. We
should continually seek the profound truth that lies behind the words
themselves. As Sayagyi U Ba Khin said, "The words of the Buddha in certain
teachings are so deep and subtle that I doubt whether there are proper
expressions in English or even in the Myanmar language (Burmese) to convey
his real meaning."
Ashin Buddhaghosa gives a number of explanations for the terms
"meaning" and "detail." The meaning of the Doctrine will inspire those
who are ready to experience it and the detail will inspire faith in those
who lead worldly lives. The meaning refers to understanding the most
profound aspects and the detail refers to the Doctrine and the language
that conveys it. Understanding the meaning leads to attaining the goal.
Understanding the detail leads to mastering the texts.
In saying that the Doctrine has been fulfilled in its entirety, we
should understand that nothing can be added to it. It includes the five
aspects of the Doctrine: morality, concentration, understanding,
deliverance, and knowledge and vision of deliverance. In our own practice,
and in teaching others, we must be careful not to change the Teachings in
any way. It is very easy to make mistakes out of a desire to help others,
or out of an inability to live up to the high standards of the Doctrine.
We cannot argue with the truth. It will be helpful if we are honest with
ourselves with respect to our own limitations. Studying the Teachings and
having teachers on whom we can rely will be indispensible in avoiding the
mistake of trying to add on to the Buddha's Doctrine.
The Doctrine is wholly pure. In other words, nothing can be taken
away from it. We cannot follow only part of the Teachings if we are ever
to reach the end of suffering. The Teachings are to be used to cross over
the dangerous flood of desire and suffering. The Doctrine is not concerned
with worldly things. This reminds us that we should not be distracted by
lesser goals. The Buddha's Teachings will be incomplete if they are used
to gain material benefits, in this world or the next. We must work
ourselves, and help others to work, for the true happiness of attaining
Sayagyi U Chit Tin
 The events after the Buddha's Awakening through the sending out of
the first sixty Arahats is found in BD IV 6-29. See also Bhikkhu Nanamoli,
//The Life of the Buddha//, pp. 37-53.
 See DPPN, s.v. Sahampati.
 Vin I 20.
 Ashin Buddhaghosa explains this in the commentary to the Vinaya-
pitaka (Sp 966) as meaning "Two must not go by the same path." In the
commentary to Samyutta-nikaya (Spk I 172), he says, "Two persons are not
to go by one path; for indeed, having gone by the same (path), (when) they
teach the doctrine, one (of them) would have to remain silent."
 We follow Ashin Buddhaghosa's discussion of the qualities of the
Dhamma (//Path//, Chap. VII paras. 72f.; cf. his commentary on the Digha-
nikaya, Sv I 175-177) by taking all the adjectives with it rather than
having some modify the holy life (brahmacariya).
 //Path//, Chapter VII 69-73.
 //Path//, Chapter I 10.
 Sv I 176.
 Quoted from KS V 121.
 Ashin Buddhaghosa quotes from the First Sermon (BD IV 15).
 Quote untraced, but see MLS I 190 and KS V 193.
 Quote from MLS I 367.
 This aspect is not clear in Bhikkhu Nanamoli's translation. We
understand this passage to refer to the three types of goal that can be
undertaken when a person hears the Doctrine and first determines to work
for Awakening -- to either become a Teaching Buddha, a Pacceka Buddha, or
 //Tadi-bhava//, translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli by "[unshakable]
 Mp II 201.
 See //The Anecdotes of Sayagyi U Ba Khin// (1982), p. 9.
 //Path//, Chapter VII paras.72f. We do not include all the details
Worldwide Contact Addresses
in the Tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin
*AUSTRIA*: International Meditation Centre, A-9064 St. Michael/Gurk 6,
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*GERMANY*: Sayagyi U Ba Khin Gesellschaft, Christaweg 16, 79114 Freiburg,
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*JAPAN*: Sayagyi U Ba Khin Memorial Trust, Komatsuri-Cho 923,
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Published by the Sayagyi U Ba Khin Memorial Trust, United Kingdom
Address as above, registered charity no. 280134
TITLE OF WORK: Teaching the Buddha-Dhamma
AUTHOR: Sayagyi U Chit Tin
AUTHOR'S ADDRESS: n/a
PUBLISHER'S ADDRESS: International Meditation Centre, Splatts House,
Heddington, Calne, Wiltshire SN11 OPE, England
COPYRIGHT HOLDER: The Sayagyi U Ba Khin Memorial Trust, U.K.
DATE OF PUBLICATION: 1995
RIGHTS & RESTRICTIONS: See paragraph below.
DATE OF DHARMANET DISTRIBUTION: 19 February 1995
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