Most rational thinkers today believe that the scientific view is disempowering because by emphasizing external factors, there seemed little the individual could do to influence his emotions and thoughts.

Kapilawastu: The return to Kapilawastu.Sandstone.1st Century B.C.Sanchi, India.
They find the Buddhist view more acceptable because it seemed that we could do something to help ourselves.
From a scientific viewpoint, an emotion has three aspects: physiological, feeling, and behavioural. Brain activity and hormonal changes are physiological, and aggressive or passive actions are behavioural.
In Buddhism, emotions refer to the mental state. Little is said of the physiological changes, probably because the scientific instruments for measuring them were not available in ancient India.
Buddhism also distinguishes between the emotion of anger and the physical or verbal action of being assertive, which may or may not be motivated by anger. Similarly, someone may be patient inside, but have either assertive or passive behaviour, depending on the situation.
Buddhists and scientists also differ on what is considered a destructive emotion. For example, scientists say that sadness, disgust, and fear are negative emotions in the sense that they are unpleasant to experience.
However, from a Buddhism viewpoint, two types of sadness, disgust, and fear are discussed. One is based on distortion, interferes with liberation, and is to be abandoned, for example, sadness at the break-up of a romantic relationship and fear of losing our job.
Another type of sadness helps us on the path. For example, when the prospect of having one rebirth after another in samsara makes us sad and even fills us with disgust and fear, they are positive because they prompt us to generate the determination to be free from cyclic existence and attain liberation.
Such sadness, disgust, and fear are positive because they are based on wisdom and stimulate us to practice and gain realizations of the path.
Science says all emotions are natural and that emotions become destructive only when they are expressed in an inappropriate way or time or to an inappropriate person or degree.
For example, it is normal to experience sadness when someone dies, but a depressed person is sad in an inappropriate situation or to an inappropriate degree. Inappropriate physical and verbal displays of emotions need to be changed, but emotional reactions, such as anger, are not bad in themselves.
Therapy is aimed more at changing the external expression of the emotions than the internal experience of them. Buddhism, on the other hand, believes that destructive emotions themselves are obstacles and need to be eliminated to have happiness.
Many scientists believe that from the viewpoint of evolutionary biology, anger enables human beings to destroy their foes, and thus stay alive and reproduce.
Another type is associated with a constructive impulse to remove an obstacle.
For example, if one faces a situation where he cannot get what he wants, his anger makes him think how to get it. It is being called "positive" on basis of its effect - the person getting what he wants - not its being v
Death seizes the doting man
The doting man with mind-set on children and herds, death seizes and carries away, as a great flood sweeps away a slumbering village.
- Magga Vagga - The Dhammapada

Emotions as seen in Buddhism and modern science

Western science teaches that genetic makeup, environment, and external experiences influences the brain, which in turn creates emotions and leads to thoughts.
From the Buddhist view, thoughts influence emotions, which in turn affect behaviour and brain functions.
Re-establishment of Theravada Bhikkhuni Order in Sri Lanka
Samaneri Suvimalee

: Sakyadhita International was set up by very educated women, both lay as well as Buddhist nuns such as Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Ven. Ayya Khema, Ven. Tenzing Pallmo, Professor Chatsumarn Kabilsinh (now Ven. Bhikkhuni Dhammananda of Thailand), Dr. Rita Gross and our very own Dr. Hema Goonetillake. It will be tedious to mention the whole list.
Suffice it to say that the organisation has among its membership very distinguished women. The organisation came into being in about 1987. A few years later the Sakyadhita Sri Lanka Branch was established.
An International Conference of Sakyadhita was held in Colombo in 1993 organised by Mrs. Ranjini de Silva, President of the Sri Lanka Sakyadhita Branch who later became the International President The keynote address at the International Conference in 1993 was made by Kusuma Devendra (now Ven. Bhikkuni Kusuma).
She is a among the trail blazers of Sakyadhita International. During her lay life she had been interested in the Dasa-Sil-Matas and had done a research study about them.
This study had made her realize what a life of hardship they led and how marginalised they were by society. After the study she had made many visits to the Ministry of Buddhist Affaires to bring some relief to them.
Her visits bore results in that the Dasa-Sil-Matas were registered as a first step and given an allowance for travelling and a programme initiated for them to access education”.
One of the main objectives of the organisation was to re-establish the Bhikkhuni Order in Theravada countries.
As we Buddhists in Sri Lanka know, the Bhikkhuni Order was established in Sri Lanka by arhant Saghamitta in the 3rd century B.C.E. However, it died out in about the 10th or 11th century.
Many people thought it was not possible to re-introduce it because according to the Vinaya rules there has to be already ordained Bhikkunis along with Bhikkhus to ordain prospective candidates.
This is, of course, a subtle point of law because in the Culavagga of the Vinaya Pitaka which contains the section on Bhikkhuni Ordination, the Buddha has stated that he gives permission to Bhikkhus to ordain Bhikkhunis.
That statement was made apparently before elaborate ceremonials evolved with regard to Higher Ordination. Fortunately, Dr. Hema Goonetillake’s research into Chinese records in China revealed that a group of Bhikkhunis from Sri Lanka, headed by Ven. Devasara, was invited to China to establish the Bhikkhuni Order there.
This was in the 5th century A.C.E. they did so with two Theravada Bhikkhus, one being a Sri Lankan Bhikkhu. It is this lineage which still persists in mainland China, Taiwan and Korea.
The Theravada Bhikkhuni Order was re-established in 1998 in Bodh Gaya with the help of Bhikkhunis from Fo Guan Shan, Taiwan, a paying back, as it were, of a debt to Sri Lanka for having given the Bhikkhuni Order to the Chinese in the first place.
We are grateful to a pioneer group of trail blazers which obtained Higher Ordination in Saranath from the Korean chapter. The Chinese Bhikkhunis follow, as do the Korean Bhikkhunis, the Dharmagupta Vinaya which is almost identical to the Theravada Vinaya with very few minor differences.
If at all the Dharmagupta Vinaya has more rules for Bhikkhunis than the Theravada but the newly re-established Bhikkhuni Order in Sri Lanka, of course, follows the Theravada Vinaya.
Since the initial-establishment of the Theravada Bhikkhuni Order, there have been several more batches of prospective candidates who have been receiving Higher Ordination with the assistance of Bhikkhunis in Taiwan or Korea.
Now the Sri Lankan Bhikkhunis themselves train and give Higher Ordination to novice Buddhist nuns (Samaneris) along with Sri Lankan Theravada Bhikkhu Upadyayas.
The Sakyadhita training and Meditation Centre, Gorakana, Panadura, was established in the year 2000. Its buildings and training programmes were financed by a philanthropic organisation in Berlin, the Heinrich Boll Foundation.
The initial training programme for Bhikkhunis included not only Vinaya studies but various other aspects of monastic administration and social work. These originally trained Bhikkhunis returned to their own aramayas (they were mostly drawn from the existing Dasa-Sil-Mata community) to train their pupil nuns along the same lines.
There are about six hundred or more Bhikkhunis now in Sri Lanka. Some of them have university degrees and post-graduate degrees as well.
Some of them have followed and are following courses in psychological counselling conducted by the Damrivi Foundation. These trained Bhikkhunis render an invaluable service to society by counselling the villagers residing round and about their aramayas.
They proved their worth in the flood relief work they did in 2003, during the tsunami disaster in December 2005 and the disaster relief work they undertook recently in Walapone at the beginning of this year.
The Sakyadhita Training and Meditation Centre at Gorakana is situated in a cul-de-sac which ends overlooking the Bolgoda Lake where the Centre’s Simamalake is. There is discipline with a capital D at this centre. The wake-up bell is at 4.30 a.m. and chanting in the Viharage (shrine room) begins at 5 a.m.
At 6 a.m. the vathpiliveth (work that must be done in and around the aramaya) commences by the various groups assigned to sweeping and cleaning the shrine room, the residential area including toilets, the garden, Bo tree precincts and also cooking on the days there are no danas. Saturdays are set aside for a thorough cleaning of the entire premises including the upstair library.
Associate with the wise

If you get a prudent companion who is fit to live with you, who behaves well and wise, you should live with him and joyfully and mindfully, overcoming all dangers.

Naga Vagga
The Dhammapada

Word that stands at the heart of the Dhamma
Bhikkhu Bodhi


“Impermanent, alas, are all formations!” - is the phrase used in Theravada Buddhist lands to announce the death of a loved one, but I have not quoted this line here in order to begin an obituary. I do so simply to introduce the subject of this essay, which is the word sankhara itself. Sometimes a single Pali word has such rich implications that merely to sit down and draw them out can shed as much light on the Buddha’s teaching as a long expository article. This is indeed the case with the word sankhara.
The word stands squarely at the heart of the Dhamma, and to trace its various strands of meaning is to get a glimpse into the Buddha’s own vision of reality.
The word sankhara is derived from the prefix, sam, meaning ‘together’, joined to the noun kara, ‘doing, making’. Sankharas are thus ‘co-doings’, things that act in concert with other things, or things that are made by a combination of other things.
Translators have rendered the word in many different ways: formations, confections, activities, processes, forces, compounds, compositions, fabrications, determinations, synergies, constructions.
All are clumsy attempts to capture the meaning of a philosophical concept for which we have no exact parallel, and thus all English renderings are bound to be imprecise. I myself use ‘formations’ and ‘volitional formations’, aware this choice is as defective as any other.
However, though it is impossible to discover an exact English equivalent for sankhara, by exploring its actual usage we can still gain insight into how the word functions in the ‘thought world’ of the Dhamma. In the suttas the word occurs in three major doctrinal contexts.
One is in the twelvefold formula of Dependent Origination (paticca-samuppada), where the sankharas are the second link in the series. They are said to be conditioned by ignorance and to function as a condition for consciousness.
Putting together statements from various suttas, we can see that the sankharas are the kammically active volitions responsible for generating rebirth and thus for sustaining the onward movement of samsara, the round of birth and death. In this context sankhara is virtually synonymous with kamma, a word to which it is etymologically akin.
The suttas distinguish the sankharas active in dependent origination into three types: bodily, verbal, and mental.
Again, the sankharas are divided into the meritorious, demeritorious, and ‘imperturbable’, i.e. the volitions present in the four formless meditations.
When ignorance and craving underlie our stream of consciousness, our volitional actions of body, speech, and mind become forces with the capacity to produce results, and of the results they produce the most significant is the renewal of the stream of consciousness following death.
It is the sankharas, propped up by ignorance and fuelled by craving, that drive the stream of consciousness onward to a new mode of rebirth, and exactly where consciousness becomes established is determined by the kammic character of the sankharas.
If one engages in meritorious deeds, the sankharas or volitional formations will propel consciousness toward a happy sphere of rebirth. If one engages in demeritorious deeds, the sankharas will propel consciousness toward a miserable rebirth.
And if one masters the formless meditations, these ‘imperturbable’ sankharas will propel consciousness toward rebirth in the formless realms.
A second major domain where the word sankharas applies is among the five aggregates. The fourth aggregate is the sankhara-khandha, the aggregate of volitional formation.
The texts define the sankhara-khanda as the six classes of volition (cha cetanakaya): volition regarding forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile objects, and ideas.
Though these sankharas correspond closely to those in the formula of dependent origination, the two are not in all respects the same, for the sankhara-khandha has a wider range.
The aggregate of volitional formations comprises all kinds of volition. It includes not merely those that are kammically potent, but also those that are kammic results and those that are kammically inoperative. In the later Pali literature the sankhara-khandha becomes an umbrella category for all the factors of mind except feeling and perception, which are assigned to aggregates of their own. Thus the sankhara-khandha comes to include such ethically variable factors as contact, attention, thought, and energy; such wholesome factors as generosity, kindness, and wisdom; and such unwholesome factors as greed, hatred, and delusion.
Since all these factors arise in conjunction with volition and participate in volitional activity, the early Buddhist teachers decided that the most fitting place to assign them is the aggregate of volitional formations.

The third major domain in which the word sankhara occurs is as a designation for all conditioned things. In this context the word has a passive derivation, denoting whatever is formed by a combination of conditions; whatever is conditioned, constructed, or compounded.
In this sense it might be rendered simply ‘formations’, without the qualifying adjective. As bare formations, sankharas include all five aggregates, not just the fourth. The term also includes external objects and situations such as mountains, fields, and forests; towns and cities; food and drink; jewellery, cars, and computers.
The fact that sankharas can include both active forces and the things produced by them is highly significant and secures for the term its role as the cornerstone of the Buddha’s philosophical vision.
For what the Buddha emphasises is that the sankharas in the two active senses - the volitional formations operative in dependent origination, and the kammic volitions in the fourth aggregate - construct the sankharas in the passive sense: “They construct the conditioned; therefore they are called volitional formations. And what are the conditioned things they construct? They construct the body, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness; therefore they are called volitional formations.” (SN XXII.79).
Though external inanimate things may arise from purely physical causes, the sankharas that make up our personal being - the five aggregates - are all products of the kammically active sankharas that we engaged in our previous lives.
In the present life as well the five aggregates are constantly being maintained, refurbished, and extended by the volitional activity we engage in now, which again becomes a condition for future existence.
Thus, the Buddha teaches, it was our own kammically formative sankharas that built up our present edifice of personal being, and it is our present formative sankharas that are now building up the edifices of personal being we will inhabit in our future lives.
These edifices consist of nothing other than sankharas as conditioned things, the conditioned formations comprised in the five aggregates.
The most important fact to understand about sankharas, as conditioned formations, is that they are all impermanent: “Impermanent, alas, are formations.”
They are impermanent not only in the sense that in their gross manifestations they will eventually come to an end, but even more pointedly because at the subtle, subliminal level they are constantly undergoing rise and fall, forever coming into being and then, in a split second, breaking up and perishing: “Their very nature is to arise and vanish.”
For this reason the Buddha declares that all sankharas are suffering (sabbe sankhara dukkha) - suffering, however, not because they are all actually painful and stressful, but because they are stamped with the mark of transience.
“Having arisen they then cease,” and because they all cease they cannot provide stable happiness and security.
To win complete release from suffering - not only for experiencing suffering, but from the unsatisfactoriness intrinsic to all conditioned existence - we must gain release from sankharas.
And what lies beyond the sankharas is that which is not constructed, not put together, not compounded. This is Nibbana, accordingly called the Unconditioned - asankhata - the opposite of what is sankhata, a word which is the passive participle corresponding to sankhara.
Nibbana is called the Unconditioned precisely because it’s a state that is neither itself a sankharas nor constructed by sankharas; a state described as visankhara, “devoid of formations,” and as sabbesankhara-samatha, “the stilling of all formations.”
Thus, when we put the word sankhara under our microscope, we see compressed within it the entire worldview of the Dhamma. The active sankharas consisting in kammically active volitions perpetually create the sankharas of the five aggregates that constitute our being.
As long as we continue to identify with the five aggregates (the work of ignorance) and to seek enjoyment in them (the work of craving), we go on spewing out the volitional formations that build up future combinations of aggregates.
Just that is the nature of samsara: an unbroken procession of empty but efficient sankharas producing still other sankharas, riding up in fresh waves with each new birth, swelling to a crest, and then crashing down into old age, illness, and death.
Yet on it goes, shrouded in the delusion that we’re really in control, sustained by an ever-tantalising, ever receding hope of final satisfaction.
When, however, we take up the practice of the Dhamma, we apply a brake to this relentless generation of sankharas.
We learn to see the true nature of the sankharas, of our own five aggregates: as unstable, conditioned processes rolling on with no one in charge.
Thereby we switch off the engine driven by ignorance and craving, and the process of kammic construction, the production of active sankharas, is effectively deconstructed.
The Heel (morning) dana is at 7 a.m. after the ceremonial offering of dana to the Buddha in the shrine room. From 9 a.m. the Pirivena (monastic school) on the premises begin its classes.
After evening vathpiliveth, chanting begins at 5.45 p.m. Student nuns study till 9.30 p.m. Pirivena studies emphasise a lot on memorising and during vathpiliveth and study hours one can hear young voices intoning in gatha style the verses of the Dhammapada or Sanskrit slokas or Pali or Sanskrit conjugations of verbs and declensions of nouns.
The Pirivena subjects are Buddhist doctrine, Pali, Sanskrit, Sinhalese, English, History, Social Science and Mathematics.
These are the subjects offered for the Pirivena final examination which is about the same standard as that of the G.C.E. ‘O’ Level. Three subjects are offered for the next examination which is of the G.C.E. ‘A’ Level.
If the candidate is successful in this examination she may sit the diploma of the Buddhist and Pali University, Homagama and if successful can enter the B.A. Degree course.
Those who have the necessary qualifications to enter other universities may do so.
Besides the Pirivena classes and vathpiliveth, the student nuns must attend the meditation classes held every Sunday, go out in response to invitations for dana, bana or pirith recitation for the sick or pregnant mothers.
Usually the Head Nun or a senior nun is kept busy with regard to these extra curricular activities. The young nuns go out on Pindapatha on Saturdays and Sundays also. Counselling falls mostly on the shoulders of the Head Nun.
During the Rains Retreat the schedule is busier because every evening during the 3-4 months there are pirith recitations, bodhi poojas and meditation sessions. Bhikkhunis are accessible to the villagers always for counselling. Everyday, practically, is a ‘public’ day for counselling.
How does one become a Bhikkhuni? First, one has to be ordained as a Sammaneri, a ten precept novice nun, under the guidance of an Achariya Bhikkhuni. After a minimum period of two years of training, the special training begins for the Bhikkhuni candidate under the guidance of an Achariya Bhikkhuni and Upadyaya Bhikku.
The Sakyadhita Training and Meditation Centre in Gorakana comes under the tutelage of the Head monk of the Naugala Samasthalanka Sasanaloka Bhikshuni Sangama Mulasthanaya, Galigamuwa.
Applications are entertained there and the final examination is held with their concurrence. The syllabus includes memorising the first twelve vaggas of the dhammapada, ten suttas of the Digha Nikaya text and of course, knowledge of the Buddhist doctrine.
The ceremony requires much physical discipline and stamina. It is the culmination of the aramaya discipline and special training which the novice nun has received, sometimes over several years in the case of those who have become samaneris very early in life. One has to reach the age of twenty to be eligible for Higher Ordination.