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Tiratana Vandana

by Sangharakshita

Ti Ratana Vandana seminar - Day 1. Tape 1 Side 1.

S: We'll start with the opening salutations because one might as well understand things in
complete detail. We'll go through it word by word. First of all the Namo, namo simply means
salutation, the suggestion being, in the context of Indian tradition, a sort of salutation with
folded hands. There is a technical term for that which is Anjali, but Namo means basically
that salutation. Not just a verbal salutation but as it were a physical salutation as well. So
salutation. Tassa means "to him" and Bhagavato, usually translated "the blessed one" but
there's quite a bit to be said about this. There are several ways of looking at this term. It's the
term probably by which the Buddha is most often referred to in the Pali texts at least by his
disciples. In it's undeclined form it is Bhagavan; or Bhagavato, here Bhagavato because "to",
to the Blessed one or to him. Bhaga is originally something like fortunate or lucky; so 'one
who possesses all fortune or blessings, therefore one who possesses positive qualities, or
good qualities. In this way the significance of the term grew. Bhaga has a short 'a' but
sometimes it's also interpreted as though it was a long 'a', Bhaga which means a share, or one
who possesses a share, that is to say one who possesses good qualities, or shares in good
qualities, but whether one interprets it the one way or the other with the short a or the long a,
it comes to the same thing in the end, that Bhagavan suggests one who possesses all positive
or fortunate or auspicious characteristics, especially of a spiritual kind or spiritual nature. It's
in a way not a very technical term, it's a popular term or popular word which has been taken
over by Buddhism, as we'll find was also the case with the ten Arhants. Originally someone
who was Bhagavan was someone who was simply fortunate or auspicious or lucky and who
therefore stood out from the rest, stood out from the groups because he was more lucky, more
fortunate, but gradually the associations came to be more one might say psychological,
spiritual, until in the end the Buddhists used this term to mean someone who possessed
spiritual blessings, spiritual good qualities, in other words the Buddha himself. So one might
say that it's a feeling term rather than an intellectual term. The term Bhagavan suggests
something positive and also impressive. One of the later derived meanings is 'the sublime
one', it's sometimes translated in that way. So, somebody who impresses one, as it were on a
lower level, by being fortunate, lucky, standing out from everyone else, possessing positive
qualities, spiritual qualities, awe inspiring, sublime. It has all those sort of connotations but
not a very precise doctrinal meaning. It's in a way a more popular term, even a more
devotional term. It can be given all sorts of doctrinal interpretations, but that's a later
development. So the English translation of Blessed One is not too bad, because blessed can
mean blessed with good luck, blessed with good qualities, or spiritually blessed. The
translation 'Lord' with it's connotations of the British social system isn't very fortunate.
(laughter) Following the interpretation of Bhagavan as having a long 'a', I've translated it
recently as richly endowed one, which gives one more of the feeling of the thing, but it is
much more of a devotional term than anything else. And it's usually the term, in the Pali
scriptures which the disciples use when addressing the Buddha. They say Bhagavan. In
modern India Bhagavan has been taken over by all the saints and mahatmas and we have
Bhagavan Ramala Maharishi and Bhagavan Rajneesh. It's as though they all tried to steal at
least a little of the reflected glory of the Buddha. Anyway we won't go into that. But this is
what Bhagavan means; so it's "salutation to Him, to the Blessed One." [2] then to the Arhant,
these are all epithets for the Buddha, Arahati, this word has a similar history. Arhant or
Arahat means 'worthy'. This is the original meaning. Worthy even worshipful. It was pointed
out by early translators of these texts that originally in ancient India the term meant something
like 'his worship', as we speak of 'his worship the mayor'; it's a mode of address in that sort of
ways so again this term, was gradually upgraded and acquired spiritual connotations, until in
the end Arhant came to mean someone who was spiritually worthy in the highest sense. It
came to be
used for an Enlightened disciple of the Buddha; one who gained his Enlightenment by
following the path shown by the Buddhas. One who had destroyed all the ten fetters, all the
ten samyojanas. There's a popular etymology of this, which explains it as Arahanta or
Arihanta, Ari meaning enemy, Hanta meaning to destroy. So Arhant means one who has
destroyed all enemies - the enemies of the defilements or the enemies of the passions and so
on. This is not a scientific etymology, but it reflects the meaning which the term came to have
in Buddhist tradition. So Arhant. So salutation to him, to the Blessed one, to the Arhant
"Samma sambuddhasa" in the puja book there's a misspelling, there should be two esses at the
end there, Samma sambuddhassa. Buddha we know, Buddha is from a root meaning 'to
understand', again this was upgraded, you see this sort of tendency, when you have an
experience which goes beyond previous
experiences, goes beyond the normal experience of people, then you've no word to describe
that, because the language or the terminology currently in use doesn't really cover, doesn't
really extend to your experience because your experience goes beyond it, so you can either
coin a completely new term, or you can stretch the old term to cover your new experience. So
this is on the whole what the Buddhists tended to do in those early days, they stretched the old
Indians or old Hindu, or old Vedic terms to cover their new, as it were, Buddhist meanings.
This does give rise to a great deal of [3] confusion, in a way, because if you're not careful you
may read into the terms, as used by Buddhism, the meanings they have in a Hindu or
non-Buddhist context. Lokamitra was mentioning this, that there are all sorts of what we
would regard as Buddhist terms, terms from Sanskrit or Pali, which have got similar parallel
forms in modern Indian languages but completely different meanings. Take the word
samadhi. Samadhi in popular Hindi, popular North Indian languages, means a tomb, or it
means to die. A saints samadhi is where he died, his tomb, it can apply to the monument put
up over the place where he died. Dharma, which in Buddhism has got it's own very definite
meaning, Dharma means your caste-duty in Hinduism. This is how the term is used in North
India generally. If a woman says "I'm doing my best to keep up my Dharma" it means 'my
caste duties', which means not eating with certain people, not touching certain people, not
taking water from a well which is used by lower caste people, etcetera, that's her Dharma she
think. Or a thief may say, "Why do I steal? (Hindi (?) words meaning ... ) that's my Dharma,"
(laughter) You see what I mean, so, in India, in modern India, you have to be so careful
teaching Buddhism, because you will use words from the Buddhist texts, from the Buddhist
scriptures, in your Buddhist sense, but they'll be understood in their current Indian meaning.
KR: Even Parinirvana, Lokamitra was saying, just means To die. (laughter)
S: Right. This is among the Ex-Untouchables. They know that this term Parinirvana is
applied to the final passing away of the Buddha, so they think that it's just a polite way of
saying that the Buddha died. I was telling Lokamitra that someone come to me one day when
I was in India going around amongst the ex-Untouchables, and said would you please come to
my house tomorrow, (Hindi (?) words meaning ... ) my father's had his parinirvana.' (laughter)
So there are so many pitfalls here. So, Buddha, to come back to sambuddhassa, Buddha
meant originally 'one who understood, understood in a spiritual sense, understood the truth,
understood ultimate reality, someone who was enlightened as we now say in English. But
even in English you have to be very careful using this word Enlightened, because it can have
connotations of eighteenth-century rationalist Enlightenment, so you must make it [4] clear
that you mean a spiritual Enlightenment, not a purely rational Enlightenment. So sambuddha
is ... 'sam' indicates fullness, or completion, samma or sam really are the same, it's heaping
superlative upon superlative, one could say 'fully and perfectly enlightened'. This brings us
back to something, in a way, which is quite basic, which is whether the Buddha's
Enlightenment was the same as that of his disciples or whether it went beyond it. As far as we
can see from the very early texts, or as far as we can see was the case in the Buddha's own
lifetime, the impression one gets is that there was not felt to be any difference between the
actual content of the Enlightenment gained by the Buddha and the Enlightenment gained by
the disciples. At a later date there was a term for the disciples Enlightenment which was
'annubodhi', annu means after or following, so the Bodhi of the disciple, the Enlightenment of
the disciple, was attained or experienced by following after the Buddha's but that was the only
difference. ...

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